Last weekend, O and I dragged ourselves out of bed early and drove out east of town to pick tomatoes on our CSA farm. For three hours we stooped in the dirt, grasping for the bright, plump fruits hiding within their rows and rows of tangled vines. Row by row, our senses became more honed: Was this one ripe enough? Diseased? Too soft? Begging to be sampled on the spot? It was hot and hard work—I have so much respect for all of the people who are out there harvesting our food every day. But even though we came out of it scorched and thirsty with aching thighs and backs, it was the best time I’d had in a while. There was something so intensely satisfying about being truly connected to the food that would end up on our plates and in our bodies. The heat and the dirt seemed to somehow intensify the scent and flavor of those tomatoes. When we were sent home with several pounds, we swooned over every bite.
For the last hour I’ve been trying to write something insightful about the importance of personally connecting with our food, but it’s just not coming out. Let’s just leave it at this: putting some energy into what you eat makes it taste better. So before tomato season is up, I urge you to try the following recipe using the most luscious, perfectly ripe, warm from the sun tomatoes you can get your hands on—it makes all the difference.
Panzanella (serves 2–3)
- 6-8 slices of stale bread
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 cup losely-packed fresh basil leaves
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- Flavorful Olive oil
- Vinegar (your choice)
- Sea Salt
- Cut the bread into 1-inch chunks. If the bread is fresh (not stale), toast it in the oven until crisp and dry.
- Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze out most of their seeds. Then into 1-inch chunks and place in a large bowl.
- Tear the basil leaves into pieces and add to the tomatoes.
- Chop or grate the garlic into the bowl with the tomatoes.
- Add the bread and toss everything together.
- Dress with olive oil (be liberal) and vinegar to taste (I like using the vinegar from pickled jalapenos for a little kick).
- Add salt and sugar to taste (even just a dusting of sugar really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes).