The tomato is a finicky thing. Giant Food Conglomerates have yet to genetically modify the fruit (yes, fruit) so that consumers can enjoy the big, bright flavors of juicy peak-season summer tomatoes all year round.
And, actually, that’s what I love about tomatoes: that they’re really only delicious during late summer. The anticipation of the season, not to mention the disappointment of supermarket tomatoes any other time of year, builds eagerness.
Then, when peak tomato season strikes, so too do fancy cooking magazines with all their ludicrous ways to “best” enjoy fresh tomatoes.
I have, in the past, given in to some of these alternative tomato-preparation methods, which have included but have not been limited to: mixing tomatoes with toasted cumin seeds, slathering mayo on sliced tomatoes, making a tomato “tartare,” pureeing tomatoes into gazpacho, broiling tomatoes, baking tomatoes, slow-roasting tomatoes, grilling tomatoes, marinating tomatoes, pan-charring cherry tomatoes, and (once, foolishly) spending a super-hot day in a tiny, poorly ventilated kitchen laboring for hours over tomato sauce.
Some of these ways to eat tomatoes were good; some were great. But none compared the one right way to eat a tomato, which can be summarized in three simple steps.
Step #1: Pick the tomato.
Not from the grocery store. Not from the farmers’ market. From the vine—a vine that grew forth from a tomato starter you planted in the soil of your backyard or front porch or fire escape, for all you city folk.
Because no tomato is enticing as one you’ve tended to and watched slowly ripen. No tomato is as fresh. No tomato is like your tomato.
Step #2: Slice and salt the tomato.
If it’s a San Marzano, plum, or cherry tomato, cut it in half. If it’s larger, like a beefsteak, slice it or chop it into bite-sized pieces.
Then, on the juicy, exposed sides of the cut tomato sprinkle a liberal amount of Maldon sea salt.
Not kosher salt. Not table salt. Not smoked salt. Not a salt blend with all kinds of other spices mixed in. Not Himalayan salt. Not black salt. Not pickling salt. And for the love of god not rock salt.
Flaky, pyramidal, crunchy, potent Maldon sea salt is the only way to go.
Put on more than you think you should.
Then put on a little more.
Step #3: Eat with your eyes closed.
This is not a food moment to be shared with a television or a smartphone or other people who would surely steal more than their fair share of your tomato glory.
This is food moment that you’ve patiently awaited and deserves to be enjoyed in all its sensual nature.
I swear to you, though I know you are skeptical, that a well-salted fresh peak-season tomato is more delicious with your eyes closed than it is with your eyes open.
Eyes shut, you are more aware of how the salt opens the natural sugars in the tomato, and how that combination nearly explodes on your tongue. Eyes shut, you can better hear the salt crystals crunch against your teeth. Eyes shut, and if you’re paying close enough attention, you can even smell the verdant remnants of the vine wafting from the skin of the fruit.
You’ve waited for this. You’ve earned it. Now seize this moment for all it’s worth.