Tomatoes Niçoise

I wrote this piece a couple weeks ago in ode to my favorite fruit then forgot to post it. Now we’re in October and are preparing for the first freeze of the season. If you still have access to good tomatoes, keep reading and consider giving them the careful consideration they’re due.

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I went to horseback riding camp every summer from the time I was eight or nine-years old until I graduated high school. I marked the end of camp the same way every summer by sobbing at the closing campfire and begging my parents to leave me behind on pick-up day. I filled pages of diary entries with hyperbolic melancholy: I don’t know how I’ll carry on without camp.

I’ve always hated endings. In junior high, I was overwhelmed with grief at the wrap parties for plays I acted in, saddened the morning after a sleepover, bereft at the end of a school year. At the end of every romantic relationship, no matter how much it needed to end, I still worry I’ll never experience love again.

This year has been filled with loss, forcing us to reckon with the discomfiting reality that life is simply a long sequence of changes looped together like the rungs on a strand of DNA. The ground is always shifting underneath us, and finding your footing requires us to get comfortable with unending shifts. This year I’ve said goodbye to comfort. To love and the intoxicating, false sense of security it brings. To friends. To work I thought would last forever. To a sense of safety.

Now I’m bidding adieu to summer. I’ve put away the one pair of jean shorts that I’ve worn into the ground. I already miss the smell of sunscreen, the taste of iced tea for breakfast, long, lazy days in the shade, and tomatoes at every meal.

I wanted to commemorate the end of tomato season with something delicious and remembered this recipe my mother sent me a while ago. I finally got around to making it with a handful of rotund, ripe tomatoes begging to be put to good use.

Niçoise means made in the style of Nice in southern France. Usually that includes some combination of lemon, capers, anchovies, garlic, and black olives, or all of the above. All of these ingredients are worth keeping stocked in your pantry so you can pull off simple, delicious dishes like this one in a snap. You can sub any seasonal vegetable for the tomatoes. The vinaigrette is a flavor bomb that would be at home over a bed of roasted butternut squash, charred cauliflower, or sauteed asparagus, depending on the season.

Side note: Niçoise olives are actually not a breed of olive but rather a style of preparation. Olives from Cailletier trees grown along the French Rivera are harvested, cured in brine, then packed in oil with mixed herbs. Incidentally, these are the same trees that produce the fruity, creamy Taggiasca olives across the water in Liguria, which make a light, ethereal olive oil that is worth seeking out.

Tomatoes Niçoise

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from David Tanis/NYT Cooking

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 3T red wine vinegar
  • ½ lemon, squeezed
  • 2T capers, chopped
  • 3 anchovy filets, chopped
  • ¼C olives, pitted, preferably niçoise (chop half and tear half by hand)
  • ¼C extra virgin olive oil
  • Marjoram leaves to garnish

Slice the tomatoes and shingle in an attractive pattern on a serving platter. Sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, add the shallots and garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and lemon juice. Macerate for 10 minutes. Fold in the capers, anchovy, chopped olives (save the torn olives for garnish), and olive oil. Season with a large pinch of salt and black pepper.

Drizzle the dressing (liberally!) over the tomatoes. Garnish with marjoram leaves and torn olives.

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