Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Sins of Summer


Are you considered a glutton if you are doggedly determined to enjoy every last bite of fresh summer produce that you can possibly fit into your stomach? Is it sinful to constantly covet the taste of red, ripe tomatoes hanging heavy on the vine, just begging to be plucked? St. Thomas Aquinas, in all his wisdom, stated that gluttony is expressed in 6 ways:
1.PRAEPROPERE-Eating Too Soon
2.LAUTE -Eating Too Expensively
3.NIMIS -Eating Too Much
4.ARDENTER -Eating Too Eagerly
5.STUDIOSE -Eating Too Daintily
6.FORENTE -Eating Wildly

So I understand all the references, with the exception of #5, eating too daintily? Well, as that technique doesn't match up to any of my dining expressions,I shall discard it as being irrelevant. Perhaps I eat summer produce far too wildly and with far too much pleasure. There is no evidence to support eating too expensively, as eating fresh summer produce is the optimal time to enjoy economical nutrition. Eating too soon-I am fairly befuddled by that thought also,
and have decided that it has no relevance to this essay either.
But wise,old St.Thomas hit the nail on the head with #3 and #4. Too Much and Too Eagerly..based on the Aquinas scale, I may just qualify as a glutton and am giving serious thought to formally changing my name to Nimis Ardenter. It has a perfectly peculiar, yet fine ring to it. Ah yes, Nimis Ardenter, eager and excessive ingester of fresh tomatoes..that's me!!
Look, I just can't help myself! There are so many varieties of these succulent fruits to tempt the tastebuds. Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are one perfectly pleasureable specimen, that explosively pop in the mouth and dissolve in the tongue like little sugar bombs. I really love Sweet 100's. Several years ago, when I had a plot in the Milford, CT community gardens, my plot neighbor, Ed Bensen, turned me on to these treasures. He insisted they were THE tomato to grow, and by God, every crop of them I've ever raised, has been filled with sweetness, just like Ed.
I'm finding that most of the local farm stands this summer are offering Sun Golds, another winning, winsome variety of cherry tomato. A gilded, glowing shade of yellowy orange, the candy like flavor of Sun Golds makes them the perfect tomato to turn on non-believers.
I've also noticed a proliferation of heirloom tomatoes surging in popularity. They have become more widely available in supermarkets, as well as farm stands and many home gardeners are embracing the unique flavors, colors and characteristics of these hearty throwbacks to earlier times.
I am rather fond of Brandywine, an heirloom variety that grows, not perfectly spherical like other tomatoes, but to a pillowy plumpness with a soft, pinkish red color. I have also tasted a bright yellow variety, but prefer the red myself. Brandywines are nice and meaty and are my tomato of choice for a perfect BLT. Their sweet juices marry well with slabs of good quality bacon (splurge on Nodine's, you will never regret it. Go to Google and check them out.)
Oh yes, I eat bacon. Particularly when it's sandwiched between luscious artisinal bread with thick slices of Brandywine and heaven forgive me, homemade mayonnaise. You can substitute Hellman's, it's a perfectly acceptable stand-in. But you have to make it yourself, just once. It's so simple and decadently delicious. You take 2 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, put these in the work bowl of a food processor. Combine 1 cup of light olive oil and 1 cup of canola or vegetable oil. Turn on the food processor and add the oil, drop by drop, until you have a thick mixture. Then add the remaining oil in a steady stream until it's all used up. Put your mayonnaise in a bowl, cover it and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to prepare all sorts of gorgeous, gluttonous summer dishes with it.
I'm of the opinion that moderation in all things makes for a happy, well balanced life and a happy well balanced belly. The word moderation being the key. It would appear that moderation is not my strong suit when it comes to summer tomatoes.
It's not just the tomatoes, it's all the lovely bread, panfried in good olive oil and sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt, the golden, crispy slices serving as a perfectly tanned and toasty base for garlicky, basil strewn tomato topping. A most magnificent bruschetta! It's all the incredible pizza, thinly rolled dough, rubbed with olive oil and capped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, big slices of Big Boy tomatoes and baked to a bubbling state of beauty. Pulled out of the oven, and scattered with shards of basil atop each slice.. this is a taste of tomatoey heaven.
As Nimis Ardenter, glorious defender of gluttony, my quest for tomato titillation shall continue until the summer sun sets on the last remaining vine and the final fruits of summer tumble onto my table.

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