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One of the best parts about tomato season, in our opinion, is the simplicity that it brings to our meals. A perfectly ripe tomato needs little in the way of adornment, and we’re happy to cede the spotlight.

It’s in this spirit that we celebrate the tomato sandwich, a gloriously simple combination of bread, tomatoes, mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper. The brilliant emulsification of fat and acid in the mayonnaise is just enough to cloak the tomatoes with flavor and buoy their juices. The bread serves as vessel and a sponge, making the meal suitable for a busy day at the office. 

Store-bought mayonnaise is perfectly acceptable; purists might even suggest that it’s preferable. But we tend to make our own mayonnaise, as it lends itself to a million uses over the course of the week.

So, in honor of the Quinciple team’s official August working lunch, we’re sharing our tips for building a proper ‘mater sammich, as well as our failproof mayonnaise recipe. 

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We’ve waited all year for this moment, where the sun (empowered, we think, by the energetic vibes of our appetites), pushes tomato plants to their utmost ripeness. Right now, market shelves (and your Quinciple box) are filled with the most versatile of multi-colored fruits; we hope that it inspires your cooking whimsy as much as it does ours. We’ve planned a month of gazpacho, salsa, tomato tarts, stuffed tomatoes, salads and sandwiches.

But before all of the eating can commence, there’s the picking and buying: what should one look for when shopping for an heirloom tomato? There are plenty of schools of thought, but we’ve jotted down a few standards for your tomato-buying and storing expertise. 

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by Kate Galassi

In the past few years heirloom vegetables have been the darlings of the farmers’ market. Farmers are growing Green Zebra tomatoes, Jacob’s Cattle beans, Amish Deer Tongue lettuce, Helios radishes and Newtown Pippin apples. And market shoppers are going nuts for them. But what exactly is an heirloom? And if a vegetable isn’t an heirloom, what is it?

Heirloom is one of those tricky food words that gets tossed around a lot and doesn’t have an exact meaning. Most people use the word heirloom to refer to specific varieties of fruits and vegetables that were saved by individuals and passed down from generation to generation. These vegetables often have unusual colors or shapes and can sometimes have superior taste. But because they come from home gardens and are sometimes suited to only a particular climate (where the original family first was growing them) they don’t always perform well on commercial farms. Yields can be low or the vegetables and fruit can be very delicate, thus difficult to transport to market. 

So what are all the other vegetables we eat if they aren’t heirlooms? Most seeds come out of breeding programs at universities or seed companies. The typical process for breeding a new variety involves growing out hundreds or thousands of plants from an already existing variety and then selecting the plants that display a certain trait (say cauliflower with a purple color or particularly plump peas) and then saving only the seeds from those plants. The seeds are planted and the selection process continues for many more generations, strengthening the particular trait with each new generation.

It is this kind of traditional breeding that brought us some of the best vegetables we know including the sugar snap pea, which was developed by Calvin Lamborn more than 30 years ago. These days he’s hard at work creating purple and maroon snow peas. With their skinny pods and gorgeous colors they look like crazy enough to be an heirloom. So next time you’re at the market be sure to ask your farmer where they got the seeds for your favorite vegetable. The answer just might surprise you.

See what’s in next week’s box

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(Photo: Flickr)

Here’s a good “dad joke” for you, courtesy of a sous chef pal of ours.

Why is Caesar salad so boring?

It always romaines the same.

While you slow clap at the cheese-factor of our sense of humor, think about the sad truth behind the line. Caesar salad is the lettuce dish that jumped the shark, appearing in a less than satisfying form on every hotel lobby menu from here to Kansas.

It’s a shame, too, because Caesar salad, when considered and prepared with care, is an outstanding dish.

In the spirit of redemption, we’ve taken a stab at pulling together the ultimate recipe. The key, we think, is in the dressing, so don’t cut corners with a store-bought version.

Here’s to the comeback.

 

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It’s hot out. Which means we’re anxious to play hooky and eat ice cream on the beach. Or float in the pool for a few hours, cocktail in hand. Really we’ll take any combination of water, sun and frozen drinks.

One thing that doesn’t sound particularly awesome: turning the oven on.

To that end, the sandwich has become a staple of our diet. And The Banh Mi Handbook, which came out last month from Andrea Nguyen, has become our bible.

We’ve long loved the powerful balance of flavors that this Vietnamese classic provides: a perfect blend of fat, meat, pickles and veggies, and pungent seasoning. Nguyen’s tome explodes that formula, in combinations that have given us fodder for endless beach picnics. This week’s roll was slathered with butter, piled high with pickled red cabbage and sliced peppers, and loaded up with squid from this week’s box, which we sautéed and dosed in Maggi sauce; next week, we’ll be sandwiching slices of steak with pickled shallots and fresh mayonnaise made according to Nguyen’s recipes.

From spreads to fillings and back again, this beautifully photographed and efficiently designed title is a helpful muse for the oven-off season.

Buy The Banh Mi Handbook