Summer seems to have arrived in one big rush around here. Spring was so early, and so prolonged, that we all got fairly used to the idea of temps in the 60's and chilly nights. Without the usual gradual warm-up, the abrupt heat (hitting 80 some days) has felt hot. We're not acclimated. We seek shade and cool breezes like lizards in the dessert. Our skin is still tender from over-wintering, and feels raw and conspicuous when exposed.
Truth be told, it feels great. To be sprung so suddenly into a season, one which our bodies crave in so many ways throughout the rest of the year, is much like being surprised on your birthday. You know it's coming, but you didn't expect it to feel so special, so good. By August, we'll be tired of it all, the scorching heat and smothering humidity and cranky, sweaty kids, but right now it's reason to celebrate.
As soon as the heat hits, my body always decides it wants more fruits and vegetables, now. Green salads, which are not normally my favorite, look appealing again. Strawberries and cherries are a special evening treat. Carrots and cucumbers and avocados become regular snack foods once more. And tomatoes, oh the tomatoes . . .
It's not tomato season here in Maine yet. That's still a ways off. Luckily, we have Backyard Farms tomatoes at our local grocery store, so we can get summer-tasting tomatoes year-round. But it feels weird (albeit luxurious!) to experience that flavor in the dead of winter, so we usually don't. Now, though, when tomato season is so close we can almost smell it (literally - I love to put my nose into our tomato plants growing off the front porch!), we've been scooping these scarlet beauties up by the vine-full, and eating them every which way.
Layered into sandwiches. Added to stir-fries. Paired with avocado and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic must. Eaten out of hand (Wylie's current favorite). And, just the other night, roasted into a sublime tomato-ricotta galette.
While Wylie is all about tomatoes these days, Kalen is primarily not. Somehow he had decided that he didn't like tomatoes. We tried in vain to remind him that he likes salsa, and pizza sauce, and pasta sauce, to no avail. If it looked like a tomato, he wouldn't eat it. Enter the galette. Which, to a four year-old, looks an awful lot like pizza. Made from pastry dough, which he loves, and smeared with an herb-ricotta filling that's an old friend of his from past pizza experiences. From this vantage point, do you see how easy it was for me to convince him to take a bite?
That one bite was revelatory for him. You could see it is his whole body, all hesitation gone, as he settled in for the simple pleasure of eating. It tasted good, and not just because of the crust and cheese. He was amazed to discover that he really liked the flavor of tomatoes! Granted, roasting does bring out some of the best qualities of a tomato, concentrating its flavors and intensifying both its sweetness and acidity. But for Kalen to devour a large slice of this galette, tomatoes and all, felt like a triumph to me. We really will have a great summer! (For how could summer truly be summer without the involvement of bushels of tomatoes?)
And, while it was not my intention, something about opening him up to the goodness of tomatoes has made him much more willing to eat veggies he's been avoiding for months. Last night, he surprised himself by liking both lettuce and avocado in his taco! (Really. He couldn't stop talking about it.) And tonight, the mushrooms in the stir-fry were consumed sans complaint. Is his body telling him the same thing mine is? Is he finally craving vegetables? I feel like this is my chance - what else can I get him won over on before he changes his mind? Spinach, cucumbers, and celery are all waiting in the wings. Do I dare go so far as okra and eggplant? Or should I just stick to the tomatoes, and be thankful we've gotten this far in such a short time? After all, we have so many seasons ahead of us to explore flavors together - why rush it?
yields a roughly 10-inch galette
This is really lovely summer food, if you know what I mean. It tastes fresh and light, yet satisfying. It's versatile, so you could add whatever's at its peak in your garden, or farmer's market. It's also great cold or at room temperature, so I think it would be the perfect thing to bring to a summer picnic. Pair it with a crisp white wine (or a rose - is that craze still happening?) and it's a perfect meal. And I know I've already mentioned how much I love this pie crust, but I just can't get over it's amazingness. While I was eating it, I believe I told Josh that the crust was so good, I'd like an entire pie made solely of crust. I'm still toying with the idea.
One recipe Best-Ever Gluten-Free pie crust, or the crust of your choosing
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten (reserve 1 tbsp for egg wash)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (I use my microplane)
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and rosemary)
salt and pepper to taste
2 large tomatoes (or an assortment of small ones)
stone-ground cornmeal, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. While oven is preheating, mix together ricotta, beaten egg (minus 1 Tbsp), Parmesan, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.
Slice tomatoes into 1/8-inch thick slices, and lay them between paper towels to absorb some of their liquid.
Once oven is preheated, roll out pie dough on a lightly floured board to a diameter of approximately 13 inches. Transfer to cornmeal-dusted baking pan. Spread ricotta filling evenly over the dough, leaving at least a 1-inch, if not more, edge bare. Arrange tomato slices over ricotta, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, just enough to hold everything in. Brush the dough with the reserved egg wash, and pop it into the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the ricotta is just beginning to brown in spots. Serve warm or at room temperature. A drizzle of really great olive oil across the galette just before consuming is not a bad thing.
Posted by Tara Barker at 11:25 PM