Times is wild ’round here lately. The garden is going gangbusters and the city is covered in confetti (deployed via confetti-stuffed absurdly painted egg; see above). These two things combined equal one simple truth: it is August in Santa Barbara. The warm weather height of growing season and the week of ridiculousness that we call Fiesta! In theory, Fiesta celebrates our city’s Spanish heritage, but this story generally leaves out the historical tidbit that the “holiday” was devised by mostly Anglo shop-owners to attract tourists.
It’s fine though. Mariachi bands on the corner and margaritas imbibed in broad daylight on the main drag are a hoot for one week out of the year. Flamenco and taco stands also abound. Don’t ask me what all the confetti is about. It’s just fun.
For me, Fiesta is a time to see my city through others’ eyes. All the giddy, goggling out-of-towners remind me that, hey, this place is rad. That palm trees are total show-stoppers when you remember to notice them and terra cotta roofs are dang charming. This loose, languid culture and climatic perfection are most people’s dream, and they are my quotidian. But not for long. In two weeks I’m peacing out for the humid, verdant woods of the Dordogne. Which is more than cool with me, but let’s not forget to profit from the fresh tomatoes and confetti explosion while the time is ripe.
About these tomatoes. Words. Can’t. Explain. But since that’s about what I got to go on, let me attempt. These tomatoes are tangy and creamy at the same time, toothy and unctuous all at once. They are fresh and decadent. They are a study in contrast: zingy from the dill and vinegar, buttery from their own sweet flesh, and perfectly balanced by the savory flavor of searing and the bitterness of parsley. Also, ten, maybe twelve, minutes from pan to plate. Do it. Oh, and fyi, green tomatoes here means unripe other-colored tomatoes, not ripe green zebras or similarly confounding heirloom varieties.
Seared Green Tomatoes
1 medium green tomato
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon high-heat oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
a pinch of fresh dill or dill flowers
a pinch of chopped parsley
Slice the tomato into slightly thinner than quarter-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cutting board and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Pour the oil into a large frying pan, and place the pan on high heat. When the pan is hot–the oil should flow like water instead of its usual viscosity–place the tomatoes in the pan. Be careful of spitting liquid as the hot oil will cause the moisture of the tomatoes to evaporate on contact (that’s the idea with searing). Cook the tomatoes on high for two minutes; press each one with a spatula to ensure even browning. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for three more minutes. Flip, return heat to high, and cook for three-to-four more minutes. At the last second, sprinkle in vinegar. It will also evaporate on contact.
Place the tomatoes on a plate. Sprinkle them with herby bits. Delight your taste buds!