weekend gourmet

Summer's best, naked and cool

July 10, 2011 

If I could sing, I would jump into a chorus of "Hallelujah!" in praise of what can be found at farmers markets and roadside stands. If I had Shakespeare's vocabulary I'm sure I could express my inner feelings with elegant verbiage.

But alas, you will have to live with "summer produce is awesome, and I can't get enough!"

I do swell with pride, though, as I see what our farmers are bringing to us. No longer do you have to hunt for a German Johnson tomato or a Sun Gold or a Cherokee Purple; the markets have ample supply. This year, my biggest joy is (after three years of trying to get farmers to offer yellow corn and bicolor corn alongside the abundance of white corn), vendors like L&G and Debra Lee's are now convinced that we will buy both, and the feedback has been high praise for the yellow varieties. That first ear of summer corn always creates a state of bliss.

Summer really begins for me with my first tomato sandwich made with a dead-ripe tomato, one that leaks through the mayonnaise and turns the bread pink. For as long as they are around, that will be my lunch, messy and slippery, full of sweet acid for the tongue. I guess I'd have a tomato sandwich, made with a German Johnson, as my last meal. OK, maybe I'd want a salad with fresh basil, Cherokee Purples and Chapel Hill Creamery's mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and cracked black pepper, too. Yeah, that would be a grand send-off. And a bowl of cool tomato soup just to round things out.

Keep it simple

Simplicity is the guide to summer eating, especially with a tomato. The more naked you keep a tomato, especially from heat, the more pleasure you will enjoy. Three or four times a year, I write a column that I know will stir up trouble. Pimento cheese comes to mind, as does barbecue. So does writing about cool soups. Soup is supposed to be hot, some of you rant, but every year, I get more and more comments about how refreshing cool soups can be. So once again, I want you doubters to give this a try.

It truly can be a shock to sit down to a bowl of soup expecting heat and getting cold. The Andalusia region of Spain gave us the gift of gazpacho, an explosive taste of summer when made with tomatoes so ripe and bell pepper so sweet, freshly picked from the garden. Now that is the moment to have summer in a bowl.

No, this is not normal gazpacho. No cucumbers, or other veggies - just a few flavors that loudly scream summer to perfection and lift the tomato to vaulted heights. Add some poached shrimp or lump crabmeat if you wish, but it's almost a waste.

We've already had some days pushing 100 degrees. That's perfect weather for a cool bowl of summer to chase the heat away.

Love apple was the name for tomatoes a century ago and was given to another as a token of affection. Treat them right and the affection will be centered on you.


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