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UPDATED: August 8, 2012

A few days ago, I came home from my neighborhood outdoor market with a fine selection of French summer tomatoes. Now, I must admit that up until a few years ago when my belle-mère introduced me to les tomates noires I had spent my life in a two-toned tomato world: regular ol’ round red tomatoes with their cherry size relatives and green tomatoes of the Southern Fried Green Tomatoes fame.  The latter, I naively assumed, were just a young, not-yet-ripe version of the former. What we now know as heirloom tomatoes where from another time and place. As far as I was concerned, a tomato was a tomato, and a tomato was round and red. Period.

Please excuse the photo quality here. Photo of a photo. Computer mishap!

How my eyes were opened in France. Not only do French summer marchés boast dozens of varieties of tomatoes but dozens of colors and shapes too.

Perhaps this is not as unknown or uncommon back home in North America nowadays as it was ten years ago before the emergence of Whole Foods grocers and the trend toward natural, local, organic produce. When I left Toronto for Paris almost six years ago, these trends were in their infancy. My local Whole Foods in the Southern US where my dad lives and outside of Toronto in Ontario where my mom lives continue to offer only a few varieties of red tomatoes: oval Roma, cherry, vine and plump beefsteak.

It makes me wonder what French children learn in school when it comes to those matching games with colors and shapes paired with corresponding fruit and veggies. My pre-school flash cards were quite clear: round + red = tomato. It’s not so obvious here in France.

With the selection of market tomatoes, I made two delicious, colorful salads this weekend. Both are wonderful for a light meal or an entrée on a hot summer’s evening.

Entrée:

Slice as many varieties of tomatoes as you can find, sprinkle with French vinaigrette (click to see our video on this dressing recipe), fresh dill and parsley. Chop and sprinkle on walnuts.

Meal:

Slice variety of tomatoes. Grill lardon (cubed bacon). Shave fresh parmesan cheese, sprinkle atop the whole.  Make French Vinaigrette as normal and add a tablespoon of sour cream to create a creamy vinaigrette. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

UPDATE:

There is just so much you can do with a few colorful tomatoes! My husband brought home some feta cheese from his lunch yesterday – don’t ask – and since we spent our honeymoon in Greece, I decided to create a greek salad-inspired dish using the summer tomatoes from today’s market.

It’s so simple: rounds of cucumber with wedges of sun tomatoes sprinkled with feta cheese, sea salt, grounded pepper and origano. Add a slash of olive oil. Serve cool.

Also, here is a special type of baguette called a Fougasse. It’s a south eastern speciality from Provence. A baguette pretzel, if you well. 🙂

Et bon appétit!

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