One of my favorite movies to watch when I need a good Ugly Cry is the classic 80’s chick flick Steel Magnolias. It’s got everything, Julia Roberts with big hair and even bigger teeth, Olympia Dukakis in the last decent role she ever had, Daryll Hannah in terrible eyewear, Dolly Parton and her breasts, Sally Field chewing scenery left and right, and Shirley Maclaine.
Have I ever told you how much I love Shirley Maclaine? It’s mostly because of Steel Magnolias. She plays Ouizer (pronounced wheezer) Boudreaux, who is one of the snarkiest, meanest old southern ladies you’ll ever meet. Ouizer keeps it real. She calls you on your shit. She used to dress up as a nun to go bar-hopping. She’ll tell you to take your bible and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. And then she’ll buy you crotchless lingerie for your bridal shower.
I want to be Ouizer Boudreax when I grow up.
Anyway, there’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Ouizer brings all the ladies tomatoes. Because she doesn’t eat them, you see, she just grows them.
Unfortunately, I’ll never be like Ouizer, because I have a brown thumb, and as many times as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to grow anything besides weeds in my yard or on my patio. Which is why, when I have a craving for a good home grown tomato, I have to rely on the kindness of co-workers and patients who want to unload theirs. Thankfully, that’s happened a few times this summer, and I was able to get some fantastic meals out of them, like the gazpacho
I made last week that still haunts my dreams, and my favorite Panzanella salad
. And this recipe, which is kind of a take off on the Panzanella, but more of a portable version.
I got the inspiration for this recipe while I watched Julie and Julia in the theater, during the scene where Julie and her husband discussed what kind of project she could embark on to get her writing career started, the characters seemed to be eating some sort of tomato mixture on grilled italian bread, and I said, “Oh, hell yes. Crostini.”
And then I made it the next day.
This is super simple, and can totally pass for a meal on those ‘too hot to cook’ kind of nights. I’ve made it at least four times since 4th of July.
2-4 tomatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1/4 of a large red onion, finely diced
5-6 leaves of basil chiffonade
1 large clove of garlic cut in half
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 loaf good crusty italian bread
First, take a look at my big juicy tomatoes! (Sorry. Am twelve.)
I had found some Heirloom tomatoes at the store this time around and decided to try them. They’re so funky and interesting looking, not like your usual boring mass-produced ‘maters.
They’re also delicious, and unfortunately…um…a tadmore expensive than regular tomatoes. So these were a rare treat.
Dice them up and toss them in a bowl.
This was a pretty good sized onion, if I remember correctly, so I ended up only using a quarter. Red onion is pretty strong when it’s raw.
Now for the basil.
Grab 5-6 good sized leaves and stack them, one on top of the other.
Roll the stacked leaves up like a cigar. Or whatever else you might smoke that’s rolled up. (Not that I’d know anything about that.) Apologies for the crap picture, apparently it’s hard to be in focus when you’re rolling basil, and there’s only so much that flickr picnik mode can fix.
And…chiffonade! Slice down the rolled leaves thinly, leaving little ribbons of basil.
Toss the basil in a bowl with the tomatoes and onions, add a couple teaspoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil, a couple teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Mix well and set aside.
Heat a saute pan over medium high heat, and add about 2 TB of butter, and 2 TB of olive oil. While waiting for the butter to melt, slice the bread about 1-1 1/2 inches thick.
Who’s got pretty counter tops? I do!
Toast bread in butter and oil until browned and crispy. Will smell pretty darn good, too.
Who’s got a crappy camera? I do!
Rub half of the fresh garlic over the warmed bread, just to get the flavor of the garlic but not the raw taste…trust me, you’ll taste it, this is a great tip (Thanks, Rachel Ray! Suck it, food snobs!)
Top the warm toasty bread with the tomato mixture.
And eat the hell out of it.
Even Ouizer would approve of this one.