Sunday, 26 July 2009

On and Up

Here I am to talk about moving (again).

For now, my time in San Francisco is over. The house on 17th, with its white tiles, great light, and inexplicably beautiful backyard will be cleaned out for someone else's use.

No longer will I be chopping on warped plastic cutting boards, flicking olive oil all over the white walls, or slamming the cupboard doors for the 70th time because they never quite shut right. No longer will I walk down the street to the farmer's market on 9th avenue to find the ingredients for lunch or dinner, getting distracted along the way by Arizmendi's currant scones or Park Chow's stellar breakfast potatoes. Like many things in life: good and bad, exciting and frightening.

This rare sunny morning I walked down the hill to the market and found myself some tomatoes. They were big tomatoes. Thoroughly red. Yielding to pressure. Piled next to mountains of peaches and nectarines, as if they were meant to be eaten by the biteful, straight from the wooden crates.

Instead I brought them home. On the bent cutting board I sliced them all in half. Into a pan with melted butter, the juices hit the heat of the metal with a hiss and shot instant aroma into the air. For a few minutes, the heat released more juices, then a quick flip turned the cut sides up, each burnished a bit golden with heat and fat. A sprinkling of salt, a few more turns, and I had tomatoes stewing in their own juices, sitting happily on the stove as the fog rolled back in. A generous splash of cream swirled around the cooked halves, mixing with the red tomato juices and mingling with the tiny beads of melted butter. Another dash of salt, and the dish was finished.

Simple and warm, heady with the flavor of a perfectly ripe summer tomato and also something deeper, something more natural and right than a refined and precise dish. Pierced with a fork, the juices of the red fruit continued to flow as I soaked them up with good bread. 

It was messy and delicious and warm. Comforting, you could say. Comforting that a plan wasn't needed to find something great: it can all end up in front of you in messy glory and still be delicious in all its inprecision.

Tomatoes à la crême
inspired by Gourmet

Find those ripe, juicy, beautiful tomatoes that are too delicate to transport from a faraway place. Choose one, maybe two per person. Slice them in half, along the equator if you remember (I didn't).

Melt some butter in a pan, enough to cover the bottom with a thin layer. Add the tomatoes, cut side down. Cook for about five minutes, listening: the heat can't be too hot or the butter and juices will burn, but listen for a light sizzle.

Flip tomatoes, sprinkle them with some coarse salt, and let cook another ten minutes or so. Again, watch the heat.

Flip again, cook some more. There should be plenty of juices in the pan. Taste them, if you like. Maybe add a bit more salt. Flip them again so the cut side is up, and add some cream. About a tablespoon per half tomato should do it. Swirl the pan so the juices and cream and butter all mix together.

If you are feeling festive, sprinkle some fresh basil on top of the hot tomatoes. Serve immediately, with crusty bread.


  1. Thanks for this post. This is a great style of cooking for those with a busy lifestyle: Simple and quick to prepare while delicious and rewarding, allowing you to take time to enjoy the food (and not spent too long cleaning dishes). I look forward to giving your recipe a go!

  2. Such a delicious blend of philosophy and comfort! Keep at it!

  3. loved the pure simplicity of it. Tried it! Loved it !