Last week Il Grano chef Salvatore Marino kicked off his summer tomato season with his Tomato Wednesdays, which he does every year at his Santa Monica restaurant. Every Wednesday during summertime's peak tomato season, Marino puts on a show, constructing a menu built entirely around the tomato. These are not your average tomatoes, or even ones he brings back from the nearby farmers market, but tomatoes Marino grows himself and picks the morning of the day he serves them.
"An early harvest this year from very little June gloom makes this the earliest starting date ever," says Marino, whose Tomato Wednesdays officially began in 2004 -- although he's been growing and serving his own tomatoes since 1999.
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Look for Cherokee tomato, pancetta and burrata panini; spaghetti with clams, oven dried Amish Gold and Sweet Million tomatoes; grilled Monterey calamari with Green Zebra tomatoes and red oak leaf lettuce salad; wild Japanese snapper crudo with Black Krim tomatoes, burrata and opal basil; and for dessert, Cherokee Purple tomato sorbet. Among new dishes this year Marino has an Ivory White tomato gazpacho with lobster.
Marino says that this year he's planted 92 plants, encompassing 24 varieties. He's also pickling smaller "pretty cool and intense" tomatoes. If you have a backyard full of your own heirloom tomatoes and can't for some reason make it into the restaurant to enjoy somebody else's cooking, try making Marino's recipe for Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, which he kindly shared with us a few years ago.