By Jill L. Reed
The Orange County Register
When I was a kid, I could eat a tomato like a peach. Just give me the whole darned thing. I would devour it, messy juices running down my chin and all.
But with age comes neatness. I no longer eat tomatoes like this, though with the current bounty of heirloom tomatoes at farmers’ markets, the messy approach is tempting.
These days I opt to include tomatoes in the meal plan as often as I can get away with it.
I make quick salads of tomatoes and cucumber with lemon juice and olive oil. Sometimes I take the firmer of the bunch and roast them on the grill as I am making fish, meat or chicken. Roma tomatoes work well for this, especially when sliced up and served them with some freshly ground black pepper.
To make a side dish that is still fresh and summery, I like to add some chunks of soft, ripe heirloom tomatoes to a salad of tiny green beans and velvety white beans. The tomatoes, with so many vibrant colors, are like the jewels of summer for me.
I toss it all with a balsamic dressing that gets some herbaceous flavor from tarragon. A little Dijon mustard gives the dressing just enough body to help it cling to the vegetables.
The salad is the perfect side dish for grilled meat, chicken or fish. With the beans in there, it can even serve as a light lunch.
My son Ben, 3, enjoys this salad a lot. He loves beans of any kind, and tomatoes have been a favorite since he started eating solid foods. He eats the little grape tomatoes like they are, well, grapes. He likes to pick out heirlooms at the farmers market based on what color mood he is in that day. And he is not afraid of being messy.
Maybe this will be the summer I show him how to eat a tomato like a peach.
TWO-BEAN AND TOMATO SALAD
Start to finish: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 - 8
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 cloves garlic, smashed to release oils then peeled, but not chopped*
8 ounces French green beans (haricots verts)
1 15-ounce can white kidney (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
1 pound heirloom or other ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
In a jar with a lid, combine balsamic, olive oil, Dijon mustard, tarragon and garlic and shake to combine to make the dressing. Set aside. (Alternately, combine in a small bowl and whisk to combine.) Store any leftover dressing up to a week in the fridge. Shake or whisk before using.
Steam French green beans until just tender. Immediately place into an ice water bath or run under cold water to quickly cool them. Cut beans in half if desired.
Put prepared French beans, white beans and tomatoes in a large serving dish and top with dressing to taste, removing any large pieces of the garlic. Toss gently to combine.
*To smash the garlic, place unpeeled cloves on a prep board and place the flat side of a large knife on top. With the palm of your hand, gently hit the flat side of the knife just to pop the skin of the garlic and crack the clove. Remove the skin before adding to the dressing. You want the garlic to be large enough so that it can be removed easily. The idea is to impart a little of the garlic oil without having large pieces of raw garlic in the dish.