I only buy fresh tomatoes to eat raw when they’re in season.  Luckily for me, the season starts early in Escondido.  And at yesterday’s market I found some that were very ugly and very ripe. The big one is probably a Black Cherokee and the splitting is because it’s been out in the sun getting nice and ripe and it is actually almost bursting.  We had it for dinner last night with just olive oil and salt.  Amazingly sweet and full of flavor.  (If you automatically put pepper on your tomatoes, I suggest you try it with only salt.  I love pepper but have discovered it really fights with the fresh tomato taste.)  Along with that one I picked up some others too in odd colors and shapes.  I’ll leave them on the counter until they’re nice and ripe (Did you know putting fresh tomatoes in the frig changes the taste and texure in a bad way?  That’s why those winter ones, shipped in refrigerated trucks, have the taste and texture of wet pink cardboard.) and then maybe a couple will go into a Panzanella salad made with small chunks of bread, ripe tomatoes, olive oil and salt.   Chunk the tomatoes ahead in your salad bowl, salt them and then press out some of the juice.  Add the bread and toss about 10 minutes before serving.  At the end add basil if you want it and cheese if you like.  We add feta which has replaced fresh mozzarella most of the time. This is a salad we make all through tomato season, changing out herbs, cheese and bread depending on what’s handy.  But don’t even bother making it with the hard red tomatoes from the grocery–they don’t have the juice or flavor.

Oh, and if you need another reason to go to the Farmers’ Market, here he is, my friend Miguel.  Sweet, sweet guy, not too hard on the eyes and great tomatoes.  What more could you ask for?