Heirloom Tomato Galette with Goat Cheese and Walnut Pesto
Cooking and eating seasonally comes naturally to me. I grew up in deserts all over the world, all we knew was to follow the season. My mother, her mother and really all the mothers I knew growing up (because let’s face it, dads weren’t stay-at-home caregivers in my time) bought vegetables, milk, fruits and bread fresh from cart vendors and hawkers who roamed residential colonies and called out to ladies of the house. The whole ordeal was very dramatic and a strange nasal shout out, each one with a different call that sounded nothing like the Hindi word for vegetables. Picture this, the word for vegetables in Hindi is ‘sabzi’, the hawker would call out in a loud, gravelly voice – ‘saaaabbzhfgskdhfeeeeeeelloooomeehs” (WTF?!!). My mother’s antennas would instinctively perk up and she would have me run out with a large basket and hold the guy till she came out with her change purse. Then ensued the battle of wills, bargaining, negotiating, nickel-and-diming that would put the best of hagglers to shame. She taught me to weigh with my palms, to ween out the good tomatoes from the bad, to tell if the milk had been mixed with water, to buy okra firm and spinach lush, to look for spots and tell by skin, smell and color.
Naturally, our meals consisted of what the hawkers brought, and they brought what the farmers grew – and therefore, squash was for winters, watermelon for summer. We weren’t spoiled for choice, living within one’s means also meant availing the cheap and the local. There were no complaints though, you adapt and you get creative with your meals – my mother sure did. Living in the desert means repurposing whatever the desert can grow – and using every part of it without throwing away the bounty. We ate neem fruits, dessert berries, gooseberries and a variety of stone fruits straight from the tree. It was a different world.
Once we moved, seasons meant nothing. There were mangoes to be found in the winter, and all shades of citrus in the summer. Tropical fruits are available year-round and the world is at my feet in the frozen section. The world of hormones and antibiotics, free-range and organic didn’t exist 20 years ago, or if it did it wasn’t this madness.
As I become increasingly aware of where my food is really coming from, I’m learning to respect the product more. I have the luxury to be able to afford seasonal, local fare. And so, when I see heirloom tomatoes in all shades of yellow, red and green at my Thursday farmer’s market, I don’t hesitate to pick up a basket and plan an entire meal around it. These particular tomatoes went into two galettes with creamy walnut pesto, goat cheese, and grated Grana Padano. Simple food is the natural conclusion of fresh, seasonal produce.