The heirloom tomato has become one of the joys of summer. Called “heritage” tomatoes in Britain, the heirloom is what is called an ‘open-pollinated’ heirloom cultivar of the tomato. They come in a rainbow of colors—from yellow to orange to crimson and purple. Heirlooms fall into four categories—family heirlooms, commercial Heirlooms, mystery heirlooms and created heirlooms. They’re grown certainly for their historical interest, but also because of their taste. If you haven’t ever eaten an heirloom, be prepared for something that would make a supermarket tomato blush from embarrassment. They really are the ultimate tomato. But they do have their drawbacks. Their shelf life is shorter and they are less disease resistant. And they’re not necessarily the prettiest of tomatoes. In fact, if they were standard red tomatoes, you’d likely pass them by. They’re cracked a bit around the stem. Their color isn’t uniform and you’ve got to eat them within a day or two of their arrival or you’ll be disappointed.
We can find heirloom tomatoes in our fancier food stores but there’s nothing to compare with those grown on our local farms. My personal favorite is Fairview Farm, which is a fourth generation family farm on Horsemill Lane off Mecox Road in Bridgehampton, so close to the ocean you can smell the salt air. As recently as 2000, the farm grew the potatoes Long Island is famous for. Then, the Ludlow brothers, Art and Harry, decided to pursue their own agricultural interests. Art gradually turned over his fields to pasture land, which now support The Mecox Bay Dairy, the cheese-making operation that turned out its first cheese in 2002. His brother Harry’s love remained growing things and maintaining the family farm stand where you can find both Art’s cheeses and Harry’s range of vegetables, fruits and any number of homemade items his wife makes up in the house his great grandfather built in the 1870s. But what draws me to Fairview are Harry’s extraordinarily flavorful heirloom tomatoes. They come in all colors—from yellow to orange to crimson and purple. People like Harry Ludlow grow them, certainly for their historical interest, but also because they truly are one of the great joys of summer.
The other great summer joy is, of course, sweet corn. I’ve waxed poetic about the corn we get at Country Gardens, the closest farm stand to us on Millstone Road. The Falkowski Family farm stand stocks only corn that’s picked in the morning, sold all-day and retired to the feedlot every evening. At one point, I panicked because Tom Falkowski is the father of four daughters and no sons. You’d think someone whose sympathies are decidedly feminist would have been more hopeful for the future. Sure enough, one of Tom’s daughters has stepped up and joined her father farming their 176 acres. Now the future seems assured and we can all go back to enjoying their corn for at least another generation.
The recipe for the salad is simple to make. Roasting the corn in the oven leads to the cleanest of silk free corn. If you’re pressed for time, you can microwave the corn for just minutes but I think the oven-roasted version has more flavor. The dressing is a pickup from the one I used earlier this month for our Lobster Cobb Salad. I liked it so much, it’s amazing I had any leftover. Make about a cup and half for this dish and you can feed a crowd. Strip the warm corn from the cobs, toss it in the buttermilk basil dressing and slice the tomatoes. Drizzle the corn dressing over the sliced heirlooms and stand back. You’ve just presented two of summer’s greatest treats.
For the Salad:
Put the corn on a sheet pan in the oven. In 30 minutes, remove corn and, once it is cool enough to touch, shuck it. Then strip the corn from the cob and put it into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Cutting corn into a Bundt pan keeps corn off the counter.
Make the Buttermilk Basil Dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor with the metal blade attached. Puree on high speed until smooth. Salt to your taste.