Summer’s First Tomatoes

Maine Recipe, Tomato & Bread Salad
Photograph by Mark Fleming

A simple, wholesome meal evokes summertime in Maine.

By Annemarie Ahearn
[dropcap letter=”I”]’ve been waiting for this moment since the ground was frozen: picking a ripe Brandywine or Black Krim tomato from the vine, taking a bite, then sprinkling sea salt onto the next bite, and the next, and the next. Summer tomatoes and salt are heaven on the palate, but there are a few other preparations worth considering. Add a crusty loaf of bread, torn and fried in garlic and thyme-scented oil, a handful of savory herbs, and a chopped fat cucumber, and you have a simple, delectable meal.
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Tomato & Bread Salad

Serves 8

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⅓ cup olive oil for croutons

4 cloves garlic, loosely peeled
and smashed

4 sprigs thyme

½ loaf sourdough bread, torn into
bite-size pieces

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter

4 cucumbers

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

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4 large heirloom tomatoes

handful of cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

handful of garden herbs (basil, anise
hyssop, parsley, dill, chives), chopped

2 balls burrata (a fresh Italian cheese
made from mozzarella and cream),
cut into quarters

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

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In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, garlic, and thyme. Once the olive oil is fragrant, push the garlic and thyme to the side of the pan and add the bread. Sauté until golden brown on one side, then flip and toast until golden on the other. Remove garlic and thyme from the pan and turn the heat down to medium. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the butter to finish browning. Turn off the heat.

Partially peel the cucumbers in lengthwise strips, leaving a little skin between each strip. Slice each cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut the halves lengthwise into thirds, and finally, cut across the pieces in ¼-inch widths. Put the cucumbers in a bowl, add a pinch of salt and a splash of white wine vinegar, and set aside.

Wash heirloom tomatoes and cut them into bite-size pieces. Slice cherry tomatoes in half. Place tomatoes in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and add the raspberry vinegar. Let marinate for no more than 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine croutons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and half of the herbs. Give the salad a gentle toss and dress with extra virgin olive oil. Divide into eight individual bowls and top each with a burrata quarter. Garnish with remaining herbs, a touch of oil, and a little sea salt.