The month of July is a very celebratory one in my house, three birthdays: my wife’s, our first daughter Charlotte’s, and this year we are expecting the birth of our newest daughter. All these things to celebrate and another one that holds a special place in my heart – the arrival of my favorite ‘fruit’ – the Heirloom Tomato!
Summer is now in full swing with long, sunny days and clear, star filled nights; and the humble heirloom tomato coming into its own. It’s our tradition to pluck the ripest, juiciest tomato off the vine and have our first BLT of the season.
I start by slowly cooking some house made bacon from Devils Gulch Farm located in Nicasio. As the bacon sizzles it releases intoxicating smells of caramelized brown sugar and apple wood smoke. While the bacon is cooking I start toasting the brioche. The bread warms and the smell of buttermilk and yeast start to develop calling for the juices of the tomatoes. Heading outside I pick the plumpest, ripest tomato from the vine. Then I grab some basil growing in the adjoining garden box.
Back to the kitchen to begin making the aioli. The way my dad showed my some 30+ years ago; 2 egg yolks, a little lemon juice, a little minced garlic whisked together as you slowly add oil until it becomes thick enough to bind and enhance all the flavors together. Once the brioche is toasted its time to slather the freshly made aioli on the crunchy bread, then stacking on the slices of salty bacon. Gently resting the tomatoes on top the aioli, then adding the basil, and the final step, sprinkling on some Fleur de Sel and topping the whole thing with the another slice of brioche. Now its time, time to grab the masterpiece in all its glory and take a bite, the juices run out of the tomato and down your hands, the delicious taste of summer!
By: Chef Dustin Valette
Dustin Valette is the chef owner of Valette located in downtown Healdsburg, and next to 140 heirloom tomato plants basking in the glory of the summer sun. Valette was just awarded Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for their wine list, and is on Trip Advisor’s Top 10 places to dine in Healdsburg.