becoming madame, cooking, farmer's markets, food, french cuisine, french culture, healthy living, life, Life in Paris, marchés, Paris, recipe, tomatoes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Spoon Feast said:
For this reason alone, I love this time of year.
I’ve just heard of (and seen) heirloom tomatoes in the last couple of years. I recently bought two at Longo’s here (you know where) – one looked liked conjoined triplets, and the other was more normal, but aubergine and bronze in color. It’s so nice that people are getting back to flavor rather than sacrificing it for “perfection.”
Hope Paris isn’t sizzling.
Becoming Madame said:
It’s so funny: my mom shops at that Longo’s at least once a week. If she’s not there, she’s at Whole Foods or Jubilee downtown. Other readers will think we know each other already – I can’t really believe myself that we’ve never met. Hope you are having a wonderful summer, Nancy!
This really is funny! George does most of our shopping, but occasionally I pop into Longo’s with him. Our daughter works almost next door to Jubilee at the yoga studio. I’ve probably passed your mom many times because until I retired, I worked at Lakeshore and Dunn.
In your latest video, I noticed your red hair. I told George we have another daughter in Paris.
Hope we can meet!
The Rowdy Chowgirl said:
Oh, so gorgeous!
Those tomato photos are so welcome at the moment, we’re in the middle of winter here. I’ve just started growing some heirloom veges (carrots and rainbow beets), and this has started me thinking about tomatoes for summer.
Becoming Madame said:
I can’t wait to have a little patch of garden of my very own some day. City living is fabulous right up until you want to watch something grow and then it is nothing short of restraining. Happy growing to you!
Okay, your pic shows a lovely dark, balsamic-like looking dressing. What’s the real deal here? I really am a recipe queen, and it makes me (a little) crazy to not know. Thanks . . .(hopefully):)
Becoming Madame said:
The dressing is the French vinaigrette that I made in this video. Hope you enjoy!
I finally made it–loved it. Thank you for sharing the recipe!
Your salads look lovely with all of the tomato varieties and I can only imagine how wonderful they tasted! (At least I can make your vinaigrette at home — thanks!) I remember those flashcards, too. 🙂