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Heirloom tomatoes reach potential in easy dish

Sometimes I think that the way I learned how to cook tomatoes and eggs was the worst. So it’s probably good if you already have your own recipe for this common, Chinese stir-fried dish – if we can even call them recipes, with so few ingredients and such simple technique.

Plus, the dish is purely personal. My mom’s version doesn’t waver, always soft spoonfuls where crimson and golden tendrils become one. My grandmother’s was firmer, red slivers nestled among yellow curds, surprising until I remember

Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune
Fresh tomatoes are stir-fried then stirred into scrambled eggs and flavored with scallions, cilantro and sesame oil. Tortilla chips add crunch.

her gentle nature belied strong beliefs.

I must have drawn on this matriarchal lineage when I learned how to make this dish my own, not at home with their guiding hands, but on the fiery wok line at my aunt and uncle’s now-closed restaurant. I’m sure it was hot, but the deafening exhaust fan overhead also always made it feel like cooking in the eye of a tropical storm. The ingredients, while carefully prepped into bite-size pieces by a great-aunt who worked in back, were far from farm-to-table.

The way they came together, with scorching speed and just the way I wanted, changed all the time.

Right now, in the harvest season, it’s all about the tomatoes, the wildest heirloom colors, and if they’re literally bursting with ripeness, all the better. If you’re lucky enough to grow your own, you know they’re the best. Me and my two black thumbs will go to the farmers markets to rescue the unlovely ones to reach their full potential.

STIR-FRIED HEIRLOOM TOMATOES AND EGGS

Makes: 2-3 servings

6 tablespoons peanut or coconut oil

2 thumb-size pieces ginger, skin on, thickly sliced

3 scallions sliced crosswise as thinly as possible, whites and greens separated

6 large eggs, whisked frothy (or soft/silken tofu, drained), salted to taste

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, cut in bite-size pieces

1 clove garlic, peeled, chopped as finely as possible

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine or cider vinegar

Fine sea salt

Cilantro, sesame oil, black pepper, plus fried wonton strips, prawn crackers or tortilla chips for crunch

Steamed rice

Hot sauce (Huy Fong Sriracha, Lao Gan Ma chile crisp, Tabasco, etc.)

Heat wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the oil, carefully swirling to coat pan. When oil shimmers, add ginger; stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add scallion whites, then eggs or tofu. Scramble until barely set; transfer to a bowl.

Add tomatoes then garlic to wok; stir-fry over high heat until tomato juice releases and starts to thicken (add cornstarch slurry if desired), 7-10 minutes. Add wine or vinegar, and salt to taste.

Return eggs to pan; stir together gently. Remove from heat. Garnish with scallion greens, cilantro, sesame oil, pepper and chips.

Eat spooned over individual bowls of steamed rice. Serve with hot sauce as desired.

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