It is August, which means I should have had a decent tomato sandwich by now, but the weather in Portland is a mess, my garden is a disaster, and none of my tomatoes have ripened to the point of being sandwich-worthy.
Naturally, I bought some and, unfortunately (but predictably), they sucked. This happens to me every year, and I have several strategies for dealing with lackluster tomatoes, but today – at the urging of a friend – I tried a slightly different approach and sautéed the slices in butter.
It’s almost too easy, but it works. As with any subpar produce, adding butter (or any fat) means adding flavor, but there’s more at work here. The tomato releases a fair amount of water, which concentrates its flavor. Those juices, in turn, mix and mingle with the butter in the pan, creating an umami-heavy tomato butter, with little browned, concentrated sugary flecks throughout.
It’s also easy. Just slice your tomatoes, leaving the seeds and gel, and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of salted butter for every four slices to a nonstick pan. Set the heat to medium, and add the tomato slices once the butter starts to foam and sputter. Cook for at least five minutes each side, until the tomatoes start to lose their shape a little, and you start to see some lovely browned bits collecting around the pan.
Carefully transfer the tomatoes to a plate, and pour the tomato butter on top. Season with salt and pepper, then use a silicone or wooden spatula to scrape up the little browned bits and get that stuff on to the tomatoes.
Photo by Clay Banks
Serve as a side dish, on toast for breakfast, or mix into rice or pasta (with a little pasta water). I ate mine with some cold leftover chicken thighs, and I highly recommend you do the same.