In my memory of summers in California, August meant many things before it came to mean fire season.
One of those things was early girl tomatoes that appear at the market right around then. I don’t pass them up until they leave in October. Bright red and plump, early girls are simple and sweet, like the myth of summer itself. Eaten raw, their juicy sugariness reminds you tomatoes are indeed a fruit. Cooked, they turn luxurious with the simplest treatment of olive oil, garlic and salt in a hot oven. There’s a Bay Area ritual among early girl devotees to cook them, jar them and save them for winter’s coldest nights for memories of warmer days.
My favorite way to enjoy them is a low maintenance kit I used to assemble for picnics and other outdoor adventures with friends—ideally, many friends and just as many early girls. It goes something like this: a baguette as fresh as I can get it, a couple of tins of anchovies, a soft and creamy mild cheese and the star of the show, early girl tomatoes. I sometimes skip the cheese or feel okay about forgetting it because the combination of early girls and anchovies is so stellar, it doesn’t leave me wanting.
Last year, by some luck and conspiring, I ended up on a sailboat on a warm and breezy September day where I made this sandwich for all
aboard. It was a hit.