Ripe summer tomatoes don't require much. A thick slice sprinkled with flaky sea salt hits every note in and of itself - sweet, tart, salty, juicy. Really, that's all you need. There are a million and one other ways to enjoy good tomatoes, too, but rarely do I think to pair them with butter (except maybe on sandwiches.) Then one day while reading Food 52, I came across a recipe that did just that, and did it in a way that seemed to be speaking directly to ME: tomatoes with brown butter. In my professional opinion (twitterese=IMPO?), brown butter ought to be its own food group. It is singular and utterly unique. I lie in bed at night, dreaming of new ways to use it. (Ok, no…not quite...if I am lying awake at night, it's sadly from having eaten too much butter rather than buttery dreams). But I do use brown butter whenever possible. It adds layers of complexity and richness to everything it graces.
In food-nerdery, it is the ultimate example of that glorious chain of events to which we all owe so much: the Maillard Reaction. You’re not just melting butter; you’re actually cooking it. It’s terrifically easy, just let the butter melt, then let it cook for a few more minutes until it turns brown but not black (burned). Don’t walk away from your skillet. When the frantic sound of bubbling begins to die down and the room fills with a toasty, nutty scent, that is when you know your brown butter is almost ready. Stay nearby. It goes quickly.
To make a more substantial side dish, I added haricot vert to the tomatoes with brown butter. Good green beans and good tomatoes are in season together, so why not? A finish of fresh, fragrant basil upped the elegance quotient. Daniel and I ate ours alongside grilled sausages, but these buttery warm vegetables would be spectacular with a beautiful steak. So simple, but so surprising, brown butter with tomatoes is now definitely added to my quiver of brown butter recipes, all so dear to my heart.
Brown Butter Tomatoes and Green Beans
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound skinny green beans (preferably haricot vert), topped but not tailed
1 large heirloom tomato, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
1) In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the frothy white milk solids sink to the bottom of the pan and turn a fragrant, nutty brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Brown butter can burn quickly, so watch it carefully. Add beans to skillet and sauté until tender and browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2) Add tomato and garlic to skillet and cook 1 to 2 minutes until tomato is warmed through and some of its liquid reduces. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper and perhaps a splash of balsamic vinegar if tomatoes taste flat.
3) Shower beans and tomatoes with torn fresh basil. Eat.