Stacked Tomato, Summer Vegetable and Grilled Bread Salad

Tomato season is in the summer. I only recently became aware of that fact, which in retrospect seems kind of foolish and even bordering on ignorant. When I was a young child, I can still picture myself skipping across the luxuriant, emerald Bermuda grass in my grandmother Mimi’s backyard to go to the tomato-growing area. When I smelled the tomatoes, it was usually warm outside because of how warm and strong the vines smelled.

Why did it take me so long to realize that tomatoes are a summer food and are only available during that season?

The fact that tomatoes are always available must be the reason. They were always on burgers and salads when I was growing up. I was unaware that they were pallid, mealy, and far from the luscious taste explosion that summer tomatoes produced at home may be in the winter. Sometimes we just need to open our eyes and take that first amazing bite of a perfectly cooked tomato.

I only recently learned about further unpleasant truths relating to those poor store-bought tomatoes a month ago. I was requested to take part in Food Bloggers for Slave-Free Tomatoes by Nicole of The Giving Table, a proponent of moral eating. “Slave-free tomatoes, what? “, I pondered. “In 2012, isn’t everything grown in the US slave-free? Regrettably, no.

I picked up the copy of Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland that I had been meaning to read since before Christmas. As I read the introduction, my eyes grew larger and larger, and as I reached the last five sentences, my heart sank.

I misspoke when I asked Molloy if it was acceptable to presume that a customer who had eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery shop, fast food joint, or food service provider in the winter had consumed a fruit gathered by a slave. It is not a supposition. It is a reality.

Also read: Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

I’ve therefore consumed a tomato that a slave harvested. Most likely, you have, too. Let’s promise not to allow such to occur in the future. To help put an end to modern-day slavery in American tomato fields, sign this letter. (It happens in within 30 seconds.)

I know you don’t want to eat anything that was handled by someone who was made to work against their will, and neither do I. From now on, let’s pick tomatoes that weren’t grown by slaves. Locally grown, ripe tomatoes always have the best flavor, and the knowledge that they were farmed ethically makes them taste even better.

I purchase my tomatoes from local farms like Freedom Farms or Peach Crest Farm through Native Roots Market or Natural Grocers, or at the farmers’ market. Shopping at reputable stores like these, who go above and above to acquire locally grown tomatoes, is a wise choice. Additionally, two well-known retailers, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have made a commitment to exclusively stock tomatoes that are free of slavery. Also keep in mind that tomatoes are a summertime favorite. Get your fill now because eating them in the winter is not worthwhile.

The details that follow give a more complete overview of the problem.

The issue: Slavery occurs domestically as well. Tomato fields in Florida were formerly referred to as “ground zero” for modern-day slavery in the US by chief assistant US attorney Douglas Molloy. In the
During 1,000 people have been rescued from slavery in American tomato fields over the last 15 years.

The Solution: This summer, the CEOs of three major supermarket chains—Ahold, Publix, and Kroger’s—are being asked to support the Fair Food Program as part of the Recipe for Change campaign, which is being led by International Justice Mission in collaboration with the Fair Food Standards Council and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. Companies who sign on vow to shift purchasing to Florida tomato growers who adhere to these stricter standards-and away from those who won’t-in exchange for a minor price premium for fairly harvested tomatoes (1.5 cents more per pound).

What you can do: By enlisting in the Fair Food Program, supermarkets may assist in eradicating slavery and other grave human rights violations from the tomato supply chain. However, CEOs require consumer pressure to alter their practices. Sign the letter right away and make it a point to only purchase tomatoes that were grown without the use of slaves moving forward.

For further detail, read Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit and Mark Bittman’s essay titled “The True Cost of Tomatoes” in The New York Times. Check out IJM’s Recipe for Change for ideas if you wish to take more action.


Double tomato dressing

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint and basil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped kalamata olives
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes (or other tiny tomatoes)

Stacked salad

  • 2 red bell peppers (choose long peppers over squatty ones)
  • 2 large zucchinis
  • about ⅓ cup olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 4 ½-inch thick slices of whole wheat peasant bread (large, oval-shaped slices should come from a boule or large loaf)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 3 cups baby arugula leaves (or other baby lettuce leaves, I used a mix)
  • 2 small tomatoes, preferably yellow, sliced into fat rounds
  • ¼ cup very roughly chopped basil and mint leaves
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled while cold and allowed to warm to room temperature


    1. Make the dressing first. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except for the tomatoes. Gently fold in the tomatoes and let it sit at room temperature while preparing the salad. Stir before serving.
    2. Roast the red bell peppers. Two options: heat a gas grill to high and while the grill is heating, put the whole peppers on the grate, close the lid and cook, turning every couple of minutes, until the peppers are blistered and blackened in most places (about 10 to 12 minutes). OR, using tongs, hold the peppers directly over the flame of a gas stove, turning occasionally, until the peppers are blackened in most places (around 8 minutes). Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly (with a lid, saran wrap or foil). Let cool for 10 to 20 minutes, then use your fingers to peel the skin away from the peppers. Put the peppers on a cutting board and split them lengthwise (in the direction of the stem/core). If possible, transfer some of the juice from inside the pepper to the bowl of dressing. Gently remove and discard the seeds, but don’t rinse the peppers. Cut the two pieces in half lengthwise again, so you have a total of 8 strips.
    3. Reduce the grill heat to medium. Trim off the ends of the zucchini and and halve them crosswise (through the middle). Stand one piece on end on the cutting board, and trim a sliver from two opposite sides to avoid having slices with a lot of skin. Cut down through the zucchini at ¼-inch intervals to yield four or five slices per zucchini half. Do the same with the remaining pieces, then brush them generously on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • more.

    1. Generously brush the slices of bread with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Arrange the bread slices and zucchini pieces in a single layer on the grill and close the lid. Grill the bread until golden brown on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Cook the zucchini until well marked on the first side (3 to 5 minutes), then flip to cook the other side until marked (2 to 3 minutes).
    2. Transfer the zucchini to a plate and cover loosely to retain heat. Rub the grilled bread on both sides with the garlic clove.
    3. Divide the arugula or lettuce leaves maong four plates, scattering them loosely. Sprinkle about ⅓ of the herbs over the lettuce. Top the lettuce with a bread slice in the center of each plate. Top each bread slice with two or three slices of zucchini, placing them at a slight diagonal. Sprinkle half the goat cheese over the zucchini. Cover with a piece of roasted red pepper at a slight diagonal (use the larger strips of pepper, if you have any). Top with another sprinkle of herbs and the remaining goat cheese. Top with the last pieces of zucchini, then the last pieces of roasted pepper, the tomato slices. Spoon an equal amount of dressing around and over each of the “sandwiches” and top with any remaining herbs. Serve immediately.