Right about now, if you live in New England, you’re tired of the gray, cold, windy days. The huge mountains of dirty, icy snow that are so high you can’t see over them into the street. Having to put on boots, gloves, a hat and a heavy coat, just to run outside to get the paper.
But then the sun comes out. And it starts to get warmer. Not warm, mind you, just warm-er. Somewhere in the 30’s. Or 40’s, even, if you’re lucky. If you’re a native New Englander this is considered “shorts weather”. You go out and jog, walk, bike, recklessly throwing your scarf, gloves and hat aside. After a few minutes you reconsider and put on a hat.
It’s during this time that I start to long with a deep, painful, soulful pining, for summer. Glorious days of sunshine, warmth, sunblock and fresh veggies. Luscious fruits. Cooking on the grill. Somehow, because it’s warmer, it makes it all the more obvious that is it not yet spring, let alone summer. If it’s deep in the depth of winter, I don’t long as much because it seems so far away. But now…. it’s just around the corner, right? (Nevermind the prediction of snow tomorrow)
Summer is always a brilliant season for us. We swim, laze about in the sun and enjoy everyone’s company. Because everyone visits when you have a pool and ample parking. As well as a second beer fridge in your basement. Summer for my Grandmother meant more houseguests, lots of family and farmer’s markets. Summer for my grandfather meant tomatos.
My grandfather ate tomatos like most people eat apples. He’d bite right into it, core and all. Or slice it and add a little salt. It was his go-to snack/meal every summer. Over the years, he tried to grow tomatos in the yard and was never really successful. “Too mealy,” he’d declare, or, “Not sweet enough.” So Grandma would buy them at the farmer’s market and he’d taste and consider and compare. I’m pretty sure he never really met a tomato he wouldn’t eat. I don’t eat tomatos now without thinking of him.
The growing of perfect tomatos has continued, though not in my backyard. My friend S. (who I’ve written about before) and my friends J&K both grow enormous gardens. Since I am a fresh produce whore and since they often grown more than they can use, it works out well for us. A win-win. Imagine my delight when, in having tea with K the other day, she announced that not only do they have plans for a bigger! even more varieties! garden this year, but that she has also started a blog so as to chronicle her adventures in gardening. This was delightful for me- K is insanely funny and the stories she tells of her weekends with J as they work in the yard and garden always make me laugh. I’m thrilled she’s going to share them with the world at large. You can view the first few posts- they’re gearing up, so to speak- here.
Back to my summer longing. To help get me by, I splurged and bought tomatos at Whole Foods. I knew they wouldn’t be as good as those farmer’s market tomatos or S.’s or J&K’s tomatos but, in a pinch, they’d do. And do they did. I made my simple tomato cheese salad and for one night, with the heat on full blast, I could imagine it was June.
Tomatos (any kind you like, I tend to use heirloom or cherry or grape)
Fresh mozzarella (one large ball of which you can slice or small ones)
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Basil, avocado (both are optional but both are good!)
Slice the tomatos. If using cherry or grape, I tend to cut in half. Slice your cheese. Again, much like the tomatos, if I’m using the small balls of cheese, I cut them in half.Arrange the slices in a pretty way on a plate. Or throw it all into a bowl, in a disorganized, unpretty but oh-so-tasty way. Season with salt and pepper.You can eat it this way or dress it up. You can add the fresh basil leaves or sliced avocado at this point as well. If you want to dress it up, you can simply take a 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and put it on the stove. Bring it to a boil and let it reduce by half. Then drizzle the resulting syrup over the tomatos and cheese like so:You can also make more of a dressing with some mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and balsamic vinegar but that’s for another post.
Take a bite, think about sun, sand and calm, warm breezes. Sigh. Open your eyes and realize it’s still February. Repeat until gone.