Not that this is THAT kind of blog, but yesterday I happened to have a full-on breathe into a paper bag panic attack about my life, generally speaking. Tweren't pretty. After some time and some soothing words from the Boyfriend, I pulled it together and stopped contemplating selling my belongings and moving to Bolivia. Phew.
Still a little loopy, I headed uptown to tend to some house-sitting responsibilities I have while our family friends are away on vacation. They have a beautifully lush garden on their rooftop terrace and I had agreed to water the plants and feed the cat in exchange for all the tomatoes and peppers I could harvest for myself. Good deal. I arrived to the sound of Yankee meowing at me for attention and purring as he wove between my shins. I stepped outside into the afternoon sun and breathed in sweet lavender and peppery basil.
But it was the tomatoes, impossibly red globes that were warm to the touch with that green earthy smell that only tomato plants have, that turned something back on inside me. I popped one of the cherries in my mouth and smiled. I was breathing slower. I felt the sun on my face. This is good, I thought. How much can life suck when tomatoes like this exist?
I offer you these pics of my tomato fantasia. Bookmark this page for when you're feeling blue. I plan to return to it myself some time in the depths of December when I really need it.
The boyfriend and I had plans to go out for arepas but after this, how could I not cook something to showcase these beauties? First I halved some of the larger cherries, leaving the smaller ones whole. That's basil from the farmer's market there too.
Next I sliced up some onion and minced a couple of cloves of garlic. I poured some olive oil in my nice big pan and tossed them in to sautee.
After a little time in the pan and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, I threw the tomatoes in and tossed over medium/low heat for a hot minute or two. With tomatoes as fresh and perfect as these, I just wanted them to soften and sweeten a bit, not cook fully.
Meanwhile, I boiled some rigatoni (penne would work well too) and chopped up the basil. To the tomatoes I added some more oil, s&p, and a little red pepper flakes for good measure. I cubed a fist-sized ball of fresh mozzarella, and then on a tip from the resourceful folks over at America's Test Kitchen, I put it the cheese in the freezer for a couple of minutes to keep it from turning into one big lump of fused gum when it hit the pasta. Good idea.
Once the pasta was done, I drained it and then tossed it into the pan with the tomatoes, a little of the pasta liquid, a little more oil, and finally the mozzarella. Mixed it all gently together (as the pan was pretty full at this point) til the cheese started to melt a bit. Then I added the basil and grated some parmesan on top. Perfect summer pasta--flavorful, light, and full of those life-affirming tomatoes. Served with a chicken pesto sausage. Delicious. Food for the slightly needy soul.
Hungry for More?
The Times has a recipe for Pasta with Cherry Tomato Sauce which is similar if a tad bit more sophistocated (words like "gremolata" are involved, but don't be scared--it's still easy). Another good use for many pounds of tomatoes is bruschetta (made it the night after this pasta), and all kinds of variations on salsa fresca to top steak or fish (making it tonight).