Last weekend I walked through a field to look at bees. I learned that on hot days, a group of bees will sit at the opening of the hive and furiously beat their wings, creating a breeze that cools the inside of the box. Organic air conditioning; who knew. I learned how the hive is built, what those particular bees ate and how gentle they can be.
As we meandered our way back through the field, I learned about tomatoes. And I’m not talking about any random, whatever is there tomato. I’m talking about tomatoes with names like Pink Girl, German Johnson Pink, Biltmore and Red Defender.
I learned about how the Biltmore and Red Defender are part of a Mountain Variety group bred by NC State University to be able to tolerate the heat and unique molds of the southeast, where I live. I learned why they look the way they do, grow the way they do, what ph is needed for the soil and the organic measures that were used to keep them pest-free.
This all happened because I drove down a driveway that had a hand painted sign that read, “Home Grown Tomatoes” in big red letters. Do you do that? As soon as the first garden stand is out do you head there? You should, you know. For more reasons than one.
You see, there’s a good chance that tomato you’re looking at in the grocery store has been cared for and harvested using slave labor. And I’m talking about here in the U.S., not some other country. In fact, it’s so close to me that it’s just one state south. I had no idea.
Today, many food bloggers across the country, myself included, are donating their blogs to bring awareness to the plight of slave laborers. We’re doing this through The Giving Table, who is working in conjunction with the International Justice Mission’s Recipe for Change to raise awareness about injustices in U.S. tomato fields.
Slavery is not just happening overseas. Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once called Florida’s tomato fields “ground zero” for modern-day slavery in the United States.
Call To Action
Supermarkets can help eliminate slavery and other serious abuses from the tomato supply chain when they join the Fair Food Program. But in order to change its policies, CEOs need pressure from consumers. You can help pressure them by using this link to send a letter to those folks. It takes 30 seconds but it could change a life.
If you can’t find that hand painted sign once summer ends, you can always head to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, both of whom have already joined the Fair Food Program. Or you can go to one of the fast food restaurants and pick the slice of tomato out of their burger since they’ve joined too.
But take that minute, sign the letter and send it to your grocery store’s corporate head shed. Do something, ok?
The star of this show is obviously the gorgeous tomatoes. They need to be the best you can get your hands on because it’s all about highlighting their flavor.
Slices of avocado and kernels of grilled corn are easy enough to prepare, as is the buttermilk ranch-type dressing that is drizzled over the stack. I suggest making the dressing first and letting it sit in the refrigerator while the rest is put together so the ingredients can get to know each other well.
I loved this. I loved the flavors that played together on this plate. The creaminess of the avocado is set off by the firm corn and its smoky flavor.
The dressing; oh my gosh. If you make it, it’ll be your go-to salad dressing from here on out. It’s creamy, but packs a bit pepper from the basil and kick from that garlic. In fact, Dudette didn’t like it because it was too ‘spicy.’
The only thing that was a bit awkward was dealing with the stack itself (but it was pretty).
What I’d Do Different Next Time
I have to admit that I wouldn’t bother with the stack next time, but would lay the slices of tomato and avocado out on a plate, sprinkle the corn over that and the dressing over it all. I’d also crumble the bacon so I’m ensured a taste with every bite.
- 2 bacon slices, halved
- ¼ cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 ears shucked corn
- Cooking spray
- 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices total
- 2 globe tomatoes, cut into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices total
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ ripe peeled avocado, thinly sliced
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the grill to high heat.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon to pan; cook 8 minutes or until crisp, tossing occasionally to curl. Drain bacon on paper towels.
- Combine buttermilk and next 5 ingredients (through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Coat corn with cooking spray. Place corn on grill rack; grill 8 minutes or until well marked, turning occasionally. Remove from grill; cool slightly. Cut corn kernels from cobs.
- Sprinkle tomato slices evenly with salt. Alternate layers of tomato and avocado on each of 4 plates. Scatter corn evenly onto plates. Drizzle each tomato stack with about 1½ tablespoons dressing and 1 teaspoon oil. Sprinkle remaining ¼ teaspoon black pepper over salads; top each salad with 1 bacon piece.
Subscribe to Cooking Light Magazine—plus get a FREE GIFT.