Featured Recipe: Summer Tomato Salad

What is your favorite thing about summer? Is it the sandy beach, the blazing sun or running through a sprinkler on a scorching hot day? I’m not a fan of any of those things. In fact, I strongly dislike all of the above. Ugh. Summer. It’s hot. My clothes stick to me as I walk down the street. I can feel beads of sweat slowly making their way down my back and I just know that my hair is beginning to separate into sad wet sections that frizz at the ends despite its poker straight nature. It’s so uncivilized.

We’re stocking up on tomatoes while we still can

Just when I’m completely over summer, after I become thoroughly annoyed with the oppressive heat; something wonderful happens – tomatoes! After the last Independence Day fireworks have long faded away, a fresh shipment arrives at the market. Ripe, plump, fresh, juicy and bursting with flavor, these tomatoes justify every last drop of sweat, every bad hair day and rumpled outfit. Suddenly, I make peace with summer if only during my walk to and from the market and then back home in my tiny kitchen.

When the tomatoes have run out for the summer, I will turn my back on this childish season before the last drop of sauce is mopped up and gobbled away with a piece of bread. When it’s over, I will only have eyes and sweaters for fall. Until then we’re stocking up on tomatoes while we still can, and making every delicious combination we can think of that involves this star of summertime.

Over the past month I’ve made tomato salad on repeat

The older I get, the less willing I am to miss out on this summer bounty. I remember many years in my 20’s an even my 30’s when my social life competed with and interfered with my culinary life. It was easy to take those summer tomatoes for granted. I knew they were just a car ride away at my parents’ house where my dad was making his signature tomato salad without fail. I rarely had to fend for myself.

These days, grocery shopping takes equal, if not higher billing than night life. Over the past month, I’ve made tomato salad on repeat. I’ve whipped up homemade salsa and served pasta dressed with the simplest of fresh and quickly cooked tomatoes. Nothing but herbs, salt and maybe some garlic or onions are needed to showcase these summer beauties.  We buy cherry, grape, Campari and plum. The ones we love best though are the big, juicy Jersey tomatoes from across the river, midway between my two homes of New York City and Philadelphia. They grow and find their way to me no matter where I lay my head.

Every bite is a memory of earlier days

The smell is pure nostalgia like a time machine to my childhood. Every bite is a memory of earlier days: screen doors and fireflies, basil growing in the garden, the Phillies on TV and Sinatra on the radio. My mom would make dinner and my dad would make a tomato salad. I can see him (young, dark hair, small and thin) getting in my mom’s way. Enthusiastically, he cut bread to sop up the juice that the mixture of tomato and olive oil would create. There he stood at the counter, making a huge mess as the bread knife broke the crunchy outer crust of the fresh loaf sending crumbs flying all over the kitchen. My mom’s eyes would roll and land with a thud as she’d usher my dad to his seat at the table.

It’s dinner time. Let’s assume the Phillies won, the basil has been picked, the screen door has closed on the fireflies and Frank serenades us as we devour my mom’s dinner and dip bread into the juice of dad’s tomato salad.