Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tomatoes and a season of heavenly delights

If there was ever a reason to have a garden, or to visit a farmer's market or a vegetable stand on the side of the road, it's to enjoy the taste of garden fresh tomatoes. Vine ripened tomatoes from a garden have the power to make me grow sentimental. To me, they are the essence of nostalgia - of a time gone by. I have little interest in those genetically altered red round things they sell in grocery stores. To me, a tomato must taste of the sun, or it's not a tomato. I have no problem with canned tomatoes, or tomato sauces - they are a completely different animal. But if I'm going to eat a fresh tomato, I need it to be real. (Translation: Fresh from the garden.) When it is, I'm in heaven. And this is my season of heavenly delights.

But let me explain where it all began. My father was an avid gardener, and a gentle, loving soul. He used to say, "If you're good to the earth, the earth will be good to you." The tomatoes he grew were one example of the truth of his words. With compost, water, and loving attention, my father grew beautiful, sweet tomatoes, which had the power to lure us into the garden no matter what else might be planned for the day. We used to come home from school and head straight for the garden, barely pausing to say hello to my mom. Morton Salt used to make tiny little salt shakers in those days - perfect for kids to carry in their lunch boxes. (I don't know if lunch boxes still exist. Or tiny Morton Salt shakers, for that matter.) We'd take our salt shakers out to the garden and feast on fresh-picked tomatoes until there were no more red ones left on the vines. My last post (oh so long ago!) featured tomato tarts. This one will be much, much simpler. Today's post is for those times when you have tomatoes to die for, and you don't want to bury their taste under anything, and you don't want to cook them -- you just want to showcase them. Plain and simple. What better to do than to serve them with sliced mozzarella, fresh basil, and some extra virgin olive oil? Just add salt and pepper. Ahhhhhh.......The tomatoes in today's post are from my friend Julie's garden in New Mexico. I spent an extra long Labor Day weekend in New Mexico, painting my living room and enjoying the company of friends. Julie came over one evening with a plastic grocery bag partially filled with tomatoes. I actually packed these in hard plastic containers and put them in my suitcase! They survived the baggage handling, and have been a small treasure trove ever since.

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13 comments:

Nora B. said...

Hi Toni, it was lovely to read your story about your dad's tomatoes. Your insalata caprese makes me yearn to have some too. Whenever I get my hands on buffalo mozzarella, all I need is insalata caprese and a crusty loaf for lunch or dinner. Or both!

Lydia said...

There's really nothing to add to a perfect ripe tomato -- but when I make caprese, I add the tiniest drizzle of my favorite balsamic vinegar.

Lydia said...

There's really nothing to add to a perfect ripe tomato -- but when I make caprese, I add the tiniest drizzle of my favorite balsamic vinegar.

valentinA said...

I've never had caprese before, what a bummer! By the look of it, I'm sure it tasted all so fresh & healthy:)

Cynthia said...

And when such fresh, precious jewels are served, one wants it to be as simple as you have done here.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That sounds amazing! I can competely relate to this post. I just wrote a post about family gardens which I will be posting soon! There is nothing better than garden vegetables!

toni said...

Nora - Oh yes, that crusty loaf is the perfect accompaniment!

Lydia - I agree...The balsamic would have been perfect. But alas, I found that I had run out of it!! I've since replenished my stock, so I can enjoy the rest of the tomatoes and mozzarella in perfect harmony with balsamic.

Valentina - This one's a no-brainer. You will love it for it's simplicity and freshness!

Cynthia - What a perfect description - precious jewels! Yes! Spoken by a true writer...

Jenn - And I have just photographed my latest favorite fig dish - now I have to write about it! (Yours made me salivate!!)

Susan said...

Caprese salad is like Chanel: it always looks good and never goes out of style. I really enjoyed hearing about your dad, who sounds like a lovely and wise man.

toni said...

Susan - He was a lovely and wise man, and the world is a poorer place without him.

katiez said...

My tomatoes all died in June - so no garden tomatoes for me... until last Sat. I helped the neighbor pick grapes and, in thanks, she gave me 4, just-picked, tomatoes. I sliced, added a bit of salt and pepper and ate. I did not share. I felt no guilt.

toni said...

Katiez - I'm so sorry to hear that your tomatoes died! Quelle horror!! But your neighbor's gift was wonderful! And no, there is no need for guilt. It would have spoiled the taste!

Susan said...

The simplicity of salting a blood-red tomato just plucked from the vine is one of the richest rewards of home gardening. Thanks for sharing a sweet memory of your dad, Toni. He sounds like he was a fine fellow.

danger mouse said...

Mon Dieu, my tomatoes-they are not living! They have ceased to be! They are no more, they have gone to meet their maker! They are ex-tomatoes! Quelle horror!!!!