EACH COMPONENT of this tomato tasting can be found at one or another of our restaurants during the summer, but in this Daniel appetizer, we have combined all of them to paint a summery ode to the fruit. For more than fifteen years, we have been getting our heirloom tomatoes from Tim Stark, who runs Eckerton Hill Farm in Pennsylvania. I recently visited Tim, a management consultant who left the business world to follow his passion for tomatoes. Together with his family, we cooked, ate, shared stories, and had a fabulous time around a great bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Tim’s tomatoes, all field-grown, are incredibly sweet and juicy. For each preparation, we use a different vinegar, but my favorite is the simple tomato salad drizzled with the unique honey and herb–infused Alsatian Melfor vinegar.
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Chilled Tomato Soup (makes approximately 1½ quarts)
4poundsvery ripered heirloom tomatoes (such as Brandywine, Neves Azorean Red, or Aussie)
Halve the tomatoes. Scoop out the insides into a sieve set over a bowl. Press to extract the juices and discard the seeds. Reserve the juice. Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch chunks. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, fennel, bell pepper, leek, celery, garlic, bouquet garni, and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender but not colored. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Scoop the liquid that has released in the pan into a separate saucepan with the reserved tomato juice and simmer until reduced by half; set aside. Continue to cook the tomatoes, stirring, for 20 more minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and pass the tomatoes through a food mill into a bowl set over ice. Whisk in the olive oil, celery salt, and Tabasco. Add the reduced tomato juice to the desired consistency. Stir the soup until chilled, about 15 minutes, then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Reserve, chilled.
For the Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette
Fill one-third of a medium saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. Halve the tomato, squeeze out and discard the seeds, and chop it into small chunks. Transfer to a medium heatproof bowl and toss with the salt and saffron. Cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl over the simmering water to warm the mixture until the tomatoes release their juices, about 45 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the vinegar and olive oil, and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve and chill.
For the Tomato and Brunet Cheese Crostini
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut the bread into 6 rectangles, brush lightly with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, set on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and top with another sheet of parchment paper and a baking sheet, to keep the bread flat. Bake for 20 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Place a slice of Brunet cheese on the bread, cover with a piece of tomato confit, and if desired, trim the sides into straight lines. Top with garlic chips and opal basil leaves.
For the Heirloom Tomato Salad
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Core the tomatoes and, with a paring knife, score a small X on their bottoms. Boil the tomatoes for 5 seconds, or just until the skins start to loosen around the scored bottoms; chill in the ice water and peel the skins. Reserve the boiling water for the stuffed tomatoes.
Cut the tomatoes into equal-size wedges and lay them in a nonreactive baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the top and marinate, refrigerated, for 1 hour.
For the Avocado-Stuffed Tomatoes
Core the tomatoes and score a small X on their bottoms. Boil the tomatoes for 5 seconds, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to chill. Peel and slice a ¼-inch cap from the top of the tomatoes. Scoop out the insides with a small spoon into a sieve set over a bowl. Press to extract the juices and discard the seeds.
Split the avocado, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a blender with the lemon juice, salt, olive oil, and 2 teaspoons of the tomato juice. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag. Fill the cherry tomatoes with the avocado mixture up to 1 hour before serving.
Spoon a thin layer of grilled eggplant puree into the bottom of 6 small soup cups and fill with tomato soup; garnish with a few drops of basil oil and small leaves of bush basil.
For each serving, arrange one-quarter of the heirloom tomato salad and a crostini on a chilled salad plate. Drizzle aged balsamic next to the crostini. Swipe a spoonful of yellow tomato vinaigrette onto the plate and top it with an avocado-filled cherry tomato. Garnish the salad with arugula.