Every Wednesday during summertime's peak tomato season, Il Grano chef-owner Salvatore 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 before he serves them at his Santa Monica restaurant. This year Marino planted 80 tomato plants, encompassing 36 varieties. On the menu this Wednesday: San Marzano tomato water with raw ice fish (just-born fish, which look kind of like amorphous bits of squid; yesterday's were sardines); Turkish Monastery tomatoes with a salad of Sardinian cous cous, parsley and red onions; Dungeness crab with chervil, baby corn, and Green Zebra and Orange Glow tomatoes.
Yesterday Marino also whipped up a white peach-tomato gazpacho, which he topped with some Naturtiams and a drizzle of Academia Barilla extra virgin olive oil, which is also on sale at La Bottega Marino next door.
La Bottega is Marino's casual restaurant, which also sells many imported Italian products. There are two Bottegas, one next to Il Grano, the other in Larchmont. A third is set to open in Beverly Hills in about a month. “It'll be the same as the other Bottegas,” said Marino over a soup plate of gazpacho yesterday. Although it will offer pizzas, “it's a bottega, not a pizzeria.” Marino says he'll be changing the menus at all three Bottegas more frequently this fall, making it more seasonal, featuring fresh produce like figs and melons and, you guessed it, tomatoes.
If you've got a glut of tomatoes–and no restaurant to take them to–you might want to turn them into gazpacho yourself. Here's Marino's recipe:
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Note: From Il Grano chef Salvatore Marino. Marino suggests serving this with a garnish of microgreens, or maybe some lobster or crab; burrata or croutons are also good.
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes (variety of choice)
3 ounces bread, without the crust
1/4 red bell pepper
1 ounce onion
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
1. Cut the tomatoes into approximately 2-inch pieces and place in a blender.
2. Add the bread, pepper, onion and olive oil to the tomatoes in the blender, cover and blend on high speed until finely pureed.
3. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Pour into a soup plate or bowl, drizzle with a splash of additional olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.