It happened at a picnic, while talking about whether or not a salad of tomatoes, peaches, and mozzarella, was a new idea. Peter said it was. I said not. Which is the usual childish direction our conversations go -- "No-ooo!" "Yes!" "Never!" "Wrong!" Peter wisely changed the subject to an even newer tomato concept he'd recently encountered at Lulu & Po: sliced fresh tomatoes, dappled with brown butter, salt, and pepper. He had me (for once!) -- I'd never heard of brown butter tomatoes.
How can you resist something called Brown Butter Tomatoes? I had to try them, which I did at our last photo shoot. You won't believe how easy they are, how close you are to summertime bliss just reading these words. Start walking to your kitchen. Slice a tomato. Beefsteak is best. One-third inch thick slices -- half-inch is too thick, one-quarter is too thin. Get out your ruler if you must. Overlap the slices on the plate you'll devour them from. Brown the butter and grab a spoon. As you spoon the butter over the tomatoes, listen: they sizzle! Shower them with a flaky salt, grind over some pepper. And have at them. As Merrill noted, the tomatoes and butter together are mysteriously, deliciously reminiscent of lobster with melted butter. The richness. The sweet, tender flesh. The exquisite burst of summer. —Amanda Hesser
- Serves 4 as a first course, 2 as a light lunch
2 large or 3 small ripe beefsteak tomatoes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Flaky sea salt, like Maldon
Coarsely ground black pepper
Baguette or other country bread, for mopping up the butter
- Core the tomatoes and slice them 1/3-inch thick. Divide the tomato slices among 4 plates, overlapping the slices just a little.
- Place the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium low heat. Let the butter melt completely. It will begin bubbling. Let the butter simmer away, cooking off its water, until it begins to smell nutty and brown. Swirl the pan every 30 seconds or so. When the butter turns the color of a hazelnut, remove it from the heat. Use a soup spoon to ladle it over the tomatoes. They'll sizzle! You want to dress the tomatoes with the butter as if you were pouring ganache over a cake -- be generous!
- Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then rush the plates to the table so everyone can taste the tomatoes while the butter is hot! Mop up the butter and tomato juices with good bread. Toast to summer!