Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tomato Tomahto

I always have trouble answering that ubiquitous “what would your last meal be” question. On premise it bothers me to narrow down an answer. And in reality who can pick just one thing?!? That is, until late summer hits and brings with it the bounty of lush tomatoes and fragrant basil. Ask me now, and I definitely know my answer.

I have to come clean, I’m a tomato addict. I blame my father. When tomatoes were in season when we were kids every dinner and many lunches were accompanied by a plate of glistening tomato slices. No dressing, no fancified cheese and basil stacks. Just. Tomatoes. Maybe salt. It’s simplicity and appreciation for good ingredients at its unvarnished best. Sometimes, the best times, the tomatoes would hit the table still slightly hot from the sun.

I’m violently opposed to refrigerating tomatoes. I’m also violently opposed to any tomato someone tries to sell me out of season (with the exception of those imported grape tomatoes I purchase with all the shame of a junkie looking for a fix). Pink, mealy January tomatoes shouldn’t be eaten. And they certainly don’t deserve to be classed together with the gorgeous beauties rolling into my kitchen right now.

After the tomato blight heartbreak of last year, I’ve hedged my bets in 2010. Good thing too since this year’s garden is once again suffering. This year the twin pillars of my fabulous CSA and the MtP farmers market have kept my habit well supplied. This weekend was even better, a visit to see BG staying with her family in Pennsylvania was totally tomato focused and once they recognized my…obsession they sent me home well kitted out to keep my three tomato a day habit humming along.

And they outfitted me with a sizable bouquet of basil to go with it. BG’s dad tried one of those aero gardens that I would’ve dismissed as a gimmick until I saw this basil plant. The size of a tree ya’ll, without getting woody or making the basil bitter! Amazing. I am so getting one of those, because if there’s anything that can improve on an in-season ripe tomato it would be its favorite companion, basil.

I have to cop to sometimes slightly fancifying my tomato dinner platter from my dad’s version. If I have access to good cheese, which I did this week in the form of a mozzarella braid from Calander’s dairy in Nazareth PA, it’s hard not to add that to my tomatoes and basil. Olive oil, salt, pepper. Perfetto. Although I’m more inclined towards a bite size chop of the ingredients than the large, round stacks of caprese typically offered in the U.S. Just a personal preference.

This year I can’t get enough of the raw unadulterated tomatoes but soon I’ll make some sauce to store. Maybe a tomato tart (there’s a recipe for one with gruyere that is delicious). And WaPo ran an intriguing article about homemade ketchup today. We’ll see. As long as I can keep the tomatoes coming I’m a happy woman.