July 26, 2007

SUMMER and tomatoes

I was wandering around the blogs last nite and read many blogs about summer......what it means, the memories some had, etc. It got me thinking about it and wondering what to post. I didnt want to do the usual longest day of the yr. or what the soltice is. Everyone is doing that. And then I thought......fireflies or as we called them lightening bugs.

As a child I remember many summer nites being outside with my friends till late. We would gather fireflies and put them in a jar to watch them blink on and off, facinated by such a strange bug. Now I dont like bugs generally but these .....well how can you hate these. Its like ladybugs, love those too. I got to thinking about how as a kid we would stay outside playing till 11pm. After a certain hr. my mom wouldnt let me leave our street but I could stay outside as long as I was within calling distance. We would all play hide and seek at nite or catch fireflies or sit on each others porches talking for hrs. I miss those days. There are no fireflies where I am now in California.

I lived in a neighborhood that had duplex housing , for those that dont know thats one big house basically with two living spaces for two families. I dont think we were poor, I never felt poor but I knew we were not rich either. Bobby Hegyes who played Juan Epstein on Welcome Back Kotter lived around the corner from me. We all grew up playing softball and stuff in the streets there. I remember summer days where we would get rocks that would draw on the road like chalk would and spend all day drawing an obstacle course to use with our roller skates afterward. I remember having skates that had that key you didnt dare lose to tighten them. Later on my mom bought me new skates that you adjusted to fit, then all you had to do was pull em apart to slip them on and off.
We would do stuff like that till supper time then head home.........anxious to go back outside after dinner and play till dark. Warm summer nites, humid with fireflies to light up the nite.....We used to catch some even and smash them on our sneakers so they would glow in the dark too. Yea I know , how gross and how mean but as kids we didnt think that way.

Another of my favorite summer things is tomatoes. I grew up in New Jersey and there is no finer tomato in the world than one grown there. It has a taste like nothing else. I remember my Grampa growing them and he would let me help him in the garden. First just to get to the garden I had to get past their dog that I hated , it always barked and growled and was tied up near the garden entrance. Then I had to go under the grape arbor and it was filled with creepy japanese beetles. I remember Grampa having a jar of water and he would hand pick them off and drown them. Eww gross.

But once I got past all that the garden was like a fairyland to me. He had rows of all kinds of things growing so neat in the large fenced area. Grampa had a well there and would lift big buckets of water from it to fill a steel barrel with to use to water the garden. Grampa used to work at a brick factory so I guess he was pretty strong from there to be able to do it. Then he would fill the big galvanized watering cans to hand water his garden. When I got big enough he would fill a smaller one for me and let me loose on the garden. Oh how I loved it , this special time with Grampa ( sitting here with tears as I write this , I still miss him) and watering that miraculous garden that grew everything under the sun.
He was the only person I ever knew that grew Kohlrabi...a funny looking vegetable that formed this big knob with leaves coming out of it. He would pull out his pocket knife, pick one and peel it for me to eat like an apple. It was crunchy and tasted like fresh broccoli stems would. I loved it, no wonder broccoli is one of my favorite veggies! I dont know what Gramma ever made of them. I never saw them in any meal. But when Grampa let me pick a tomato to snack on while I watered...........oh....that was pure heaven! I would pick one and just eat it like that , warm from the sun full of juice and summer. It was the finest thing on earth and one of the things I look forward to the most still.....my first tomato of the season.

So I decided in honor of that first tomato I would post my favorite tomato recipes. You must use the good garden tomatoes , red and really ripe for these, they just dont taste the same without them.


6 medium size tomatoes, very ripe
2tb. chopped parsley
10 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4c. fresh lemon juice
3tb. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 lb. spagettini
2 tb. butter

To peel, dip tomatoes in boiling water for 15 seconds or till skin splits. Peel and chop. Squeeze the seeds out. Put tomatoes in a strainer over a bowl and let drain 1hr. Combine drained tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon juice, oil, garlic, and S&P in a bowl; reserve. Cook pasta and drain. Put in a large bowl and toss with the butter. Add half the sauce and toss working fast to keep the pasta hot. To serve portion out and top with dollops of the remaining sauce on each serving.

This is one of those cook and be ready to eat now type meals. The hot pasta and the tomatoes are amazing together. There is no other cooking than the pasta and its the perfect summer meal with a lil garlic bread and a nice dessert. I sometimes make the sauce early in the morning then when we are ready to eat , I make the pasta and toss. The cold sauce and the hot pasta complement each other and make it fairly warm and all the yummy flavors just explode. Sometimes I will make it with tiny shells to serve as a side dish for picnics but I find I must increase everything because then the pasta absorbs the liquid and its too dry. But everyone loves this either way.

The next recipe you must have garden tomatoes for also but its great when theres a glut of them in the garden. You can use as many as you want and it keeps good in the refrigerator for days too. My mother in law used to make this and we just love it.

Lots of fresh ripe garden tomatoes!
Olive oil - S & P
Red onion
Green peppers
Mint leaves (I prefer spearmint) or basil

Wash and core tomatoes, cut into wedges, not too big, you want to be able to handle them easy when you eat. Slice onions thinly. For about 6 tomatoes I would use about half an onion. You need to eyeball this and taste later, amts are up to you. Chop green peppers in about 1/2in pieces, slice celery on the diagonal. Again up to you how much you use, they are to compliment the tomatoes tho so not as much of these as tomato. Maybe one green pepper and two ribs celery for the 6 tomatoes. Add olive oil and some S & P to this . Slightly mash the veggies to release some of the juices , not alot just to get the juices flowing. Add chopped mint or basil and toss. I use about a 1/2c olive oil here. Let sit at rm temp. till ready to serve. The juices should be released over time and you can stir it up now and then if you want to help that. Sometimes the tomatoes are just too mealy and not very juicy. If thats the case then you can add some water to them and mix again.

There is no vinegar added to this , the tomato juice and olive oil make your dressing. Taste and see if there anything you might want to add. Sometimes it might need more oil or S & P or even more mint. Just be sure theres lots of juice!

We could eat just this as a meal with a loaf of Italian bread to sop up the juices , its that good! But I frequently make this for picnics, everyone requests it. Its a great way to use up alot of tomatoes tho when you have them.

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