My tomato neighbor – the one who replaced his backyard with what could seriously be called an urban tomato farm – is at it again. He’s been working all year, really, planning and plotting, digging and watering. But unlike the Little Red Hen, he’s generous to those of us who have sat idly by, doing nothing – which means this time of year, every third day or so, a new crop of tomatoes rainbows across the windowsill on my front porch.
He doesn’t just grow regular tomatoes. He grows celebrities. At least, that’s how they sound to me. They all have names like movie stars from the 20’s: Paul Robeson and Jean Flemme (which is actually Jaune Flamme, but would make a great name nonetheless) are the current favorites. And like famous people, the tomatoes look best wearing very little.
Lately, in my house, “very little” has meant a basil vinaigrette. I’ve been making it in big batches, and storing it in a Ball jar in the fridge, giving it just the quickest of shakes before dousing anything within arm’s reach – grilled chicken, sliced mangoes, you name it.
It’s the simplest thing to make – just a dollop of mustard, a scoop of yogurt, a glug of good Champagne vinegar, and a big stream of extra virgin olive oil, whizzed in the blender along with as much basil as I can tear off the basil plant with one hand. On paper, it hardly looks like a recipe at all. But I promise, it’s just the thing. Try it on a mixed green salad, with avocado slices and crab cakes, or mixed with some freshly-boiled new potatoes. Drizzle it over a simple salad of Bibb lettuce and hazelnuts. Or pile your favorite tomatoes on a plate, sprinkle them with feta, and drown them in the vinaigrette.
When you’re done, a nice slice of baguette should help you mop up. Of course, I much prefer to just use my fingers.
MAKES: About 1 cup
TIME: 5 minutes
1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Champagne wine vinegar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste
Whirl all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.