Once upon a time, heirloom tomatoes were not the common commodity we know them as today. Mid to late summer marked the start of a magically unpredictable season of irregularly shaped, blemished fruits when I was a kid in Seattle, and consistent was not a word I’d use to describe them. Juicy, delicious and sweet certainly were, however, even from the ugliest pick of the litter.
Required to be packed by hand, heirloom tomatoes are a more labor intensive and time consuming crop that more farmers have taken on since back then. The fruit harvested in July was actually planted back in March and April, planted in stages to extend the harvest season.
In July, there is nothing more satisfying than buying a ripe, unruly heirloom tomato. I reach for the reddest, most uniformly shaped for my tomato focaccia.
1 1/2 cups warm water, 105 degrees to 115 degrees
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups high-gluten pizza or bread flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
6 ripe heirloom tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
Put the warm water in a large warmed bowl, add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand for 3 minutes, or until foamy.
Add 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt and the honey and stir to combine. Add the flour and 1/2 cup of the oil and mix, first with the spoon and then using your hands, until the dough comes together into a slightly tacky ball.
Wash and dry your hands. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead, occasionally dusting it with a teaspoon of flour at a time, until you form a smooth, firm, homogenous ball, about 15 minutes. (You can do this just as well in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, if you are in a hurry, but consider doing it by hand. It makes you a better person.)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen cloth. Place the bowl in a warm area and let rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Shape each one into a ball, return to the bowl, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil two 11-by-17-inch baking sheets, the older the better.
Place a dough ball on each of the oiled baking sheets and, using your fingertips, poke indentations across the entire surface of the dough, spreading the dough out over the sheet. Let them rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, drizzle with some of the remaining olive oil, and then lay the tomato slices on top, barely overlapping, like shingles, to cover to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.
Drizzle the rest of the oil on top to form slight puddles in some of the dimples, and sprinkle with the sea salt. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom. Serve warm. Makes 2 11-by-17-inch focaccia or 12 servings.
Per serving: 311 calories; 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 4 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 1,976 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 2 g fiber.