My tomato harvest has been very skimpy this year—the polar opposite of last year’s overwhelming bonanza, when my friends and neighbors started to avoid me in case I pressed them to take a few more pounds. I grow heirloom varieties and somehow got the tags mixed up when I started the seedlings in spring. Of course, it turns out that the biggest, best, juiciest, most hurricane-proof tomatoes in my meager crop, ones that I’d really like to be able to identify, are labeled “Mystery.” Oh well! I’ve already saved seeds to grow them again next year, and they’ll be called Mystery from now on.
This recipe blends the classic summery flavors of tomato and basil with warm white beans. It’s a tasty side dish (I often serve it with Moroccan-style chicken), and it’s a good centerpiece for lunch. Just add some crusty bread, maybe a green salad, and a glass of white wine—bon appétit. Use any fresh tomato (not the tasteless ones from the supermarket) and the last of the basil before it goes to seed. Everyone I’ve served this to asks for the recipe, which comes, slightly altered, from The Brilliant Bean. It’s a breeze to prepare.
4 or 5 medium red, ripe tomatoes, chopped coarse
¾ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup light virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cans cannellini beans, 15 oz. each, undrained
½ lb. Fontina cheese, cut into ¼-inch dices
Combine the chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a bowl with the olive oil. Cover and leave at room temperature for about three hours, mixing every once in a while. (It smells wonderful.)
Put the beans and their liquid in a saucepan with ½ cup of water. Slowly heat through at a fairly low temperature (you don’t want the beans to break up).
When the beans are hot, drain and quickly rinse them under hot water and put them in a serving bowl. Immediately add the cheeses and toss gently until they start to melt. Stir in the tomato-basil mix. Serve warm or at room temperature.