I am jumping the garden gun. A few weeks ago we planted a dozen slender tomato seedlings in the 8 foot by 4 foot raised garden bed in the back yard. They are now slope-shouldered adolescents and about a foot tall, with a few of the more mature plants sprouting little yellow flowers. These are burgeoning tomatoes, our future summer meals; these are Big Boy tomatoes.
I can see a sunny summer ahead, with lotsa tomato sandwiches, and BLTs and cool Caprese salads with garden-warm tomatoes and cool creamy buffalo mozzarella, with exquisitely scented home-grown basil leaves gently wafting down onto the artfully poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar puddles. I will give David Lebovitz’s massively popular Tomato Tart a try, and maybe it will become part of our summertime roster of meals. I saw the first fireflies in the back yard a few nights ago. Can cocktail hour on the back porch be far off?
I love having lots of nibbles for the cocktail hour, when we might have a fancy French 75 or a non-alcoholic beer as the shadows lengthen and Luke the wonder dog has calmed down enough to rest his head on the top step of the stairs, watching the Marx Brother squirrel team tearing through the trees, way up high, too far away for Luke to reach. The birds are coming home, and singing their jubilant three-part harmonies, and we watch the golden light moving lower on the trees, as the sun goes down.
I have improvised a salsa, usually based on what is left over from Taco Tuesday night’s dinner: some jalepeno pepper, a chunk of Vidalia onion, the leftover ear of corn, half a red pepper, and this summer we will add our own garden fresh Big Boy tomato or two. First I slice the corn from cob, then I chop everything up roughly, throw it on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. The gas grill scares me, so I stick the sheet under the broiler, stirring and shaking it every few minutes with what what I hope looks like a practiced eye, until there is a nice amount of black char, just before everything self-immolates. Then I whirr it up in a food processor for a couple of seconds.
Sometimes I have let it process too long, and everything blends together and starts to look like gazpacho, or baby food: chunks are more attractive, because we are going to dip warm, crisp and salty corn chips into the salsa and try to balance them while we juggle a wet glass and a napkin, too. Try to remember to get some fresh cilantro. The scent of a scattering of chartreuse cilantro leaves is an invitation to dig in to the bowl of fresh salsa. (Don’t forget to heat up some chips in the oven after you have turned off the broiler. Warm chips, which get gobbled faster, are so much more delicious than cold chips. Show you care!) If you are not afraid of the gas grill, here is a recipe with measurements:
Grilled Salsa: https://minimalistbaker.com/perfect-grilled-corn-salsa/
Are there tomatoes in your garden this summer? Let the Spy Test Kitchens know how your garden grows, and what you are planning on making with your future harvest. I have to get some bamboo stakes this weekend; those plants of ours are enjoying the rain and have been growing by leaps and bounds.
“I let Annabel show me how to do it, and together we planted the tomatoes. Once I’d done one or two, I discovered that I liked it, and that furthermore tomato plants smelled good. Not a pretty smell, but an interesting one, peppery and green. I could smell it on my hands, and in the sunny air.”
― Abbi Waxman