good and plenty: a story of tomatoes.

Summer is in full swing, and I am living the dream.  Farmer’s Markets have sprouted up all around in-town Atlanta, and the tables are filled with amazing fruits, vegetables, herbs and other treats.  This week, Adam and I visited the little market in Decatur on Saturday morning. To our delight, we found breakfast.

A delicious pimento cheese scone, made by Maria from Little Red Hen Bakeshop.  It was soft and scrumptious on the inside, with a perfect cheesey crunch on the outside.  Leaving a little trail of crumbs for the squirrels, we perused the wonders of the season…

There were enough tomatoes to sink a small ship.  All shapes and sizes and varieties.

We saw vendors with familiar faces,

like this one, who we’ve seen at Grant Park.

Bowls full of cucumbers- large and small.

Heirloom peppers,

mini peppers, and peppers named for girls by farmers striving to cultivate the perfect jalapeno.   I think one of those is called the Rachel pepper.

We found these lovely chipollini onions and made them a star in our award winning potatoes au gratin with caramelized local onions, local garlic, and bacon.

That pan of potatoes disappeared in a matter of minutes and won us Best Side Dish at Rib Fest 6- an fabulous annual celebration of pork and friendship.  Yeeha!

On Sunday, we made our weekly trip to the Grant Park Farmer’s Market and ran into friends. 

Eva inspired me, and I hula hooped for a LONG time.

Just the exercise I needed before diving into my brick oven pizza!

The best part about this light, tasty pie, is that it was created using ingredients sold by local farmers at the market.  I love that.

Other note-worthy goodness at the market this week includes amazing honey

from Hidden Springs Farm.  They provide pretzels sticks for your dunking pleasure.  Adam stuffed some strawberry honey into my purse, and I cannot wait to make granola with it!

I visited the cheese man this week, knowing I’d have a kitchen full of tomatoes and basil.

We sampled several full flavored cheeses and decided on the Pecorino Saccargia, pungent and tangy.

And we finally bought some fresh spinach tagliatelli from the very happy pasta guy, who I’ve been eye-balling for weeks now.

I even got to sample one of these Rattlesnake green beans,

which my friend, Robin suggested.  And I had to take a bunch of them home with me too.

Ah, summer time, you make me so happy.

Enough lolly-gagging.  It was time to make my way over to Turtle Bend’s table, which was brimming over with beautiful tomatoes

and these wonderful little cucumbers.

I could hardly carry my CSA bag, since it was so full!!  I felt like I won the lottery or something when I got home and unpacked it all…

So much deliciousness coming out of the ground here in Georgia.  And such talented artisans creating mouth-watering treats. 

What did I do with all of that goodness you ask?  Oh, you know, a thing or two. 

Let me back up to a few days before the market first, embracing last week’s tomatoes…and lead you to present day tomato gorging.

We made a simple pasta with hot Italian sausage, zucchini and tomatoes.

We browned the sausage in a pan, rendering out its delectable fats.

While that was working, I did my mise en place, getting everything in place.

And then we sauteed our onions and garlic in a bit of that oil.

To the pan we added the zucchini

and cooked it for just a minute or two before adding the tomatoes.  It all happened quite quickly.

We boiled the fresh pasta for about 3 minutes in salted water,

and sliced up the sausage,

and chopped some fresh oregano too.

Then we added the pasta, sausage and herbs right to the pan,

and tossed it all together.

Mmm.  The tomatoes released their sweet juices to make a light sauce danced on my tongue.  The zucchini was tender and crisp, the fresh herbs shined through, and the saltiness of the cheese completed the package.   It was yummy, and made for great leftovers, but I still had a hankering for more tomatoes. 

Moving forward in the plentiful tomato journey, you know I made homemade tomato sauce.  How could I not? 

The flavor and color of the fresh tomatoes and basil in this batch of sauce was extraordinary!  It’s even good cold, which I found out when I caught my husband dunking some delicious ciabatta bread in the sauce container, straight from the fridge.  If you’d like to see the whole process of my tomato sauce recipe, you can find it in my Lasagna Candy post from my infancy stages of blogging.  Now I have that fabulous sauce in my freezer, so I can make pizzas, calzones, pastas, etc. whenever I like.

Post Farmer’s Market, I decided to play with the classic Caprese salad.  Mecca said we’d be seeing eggplant next week, so I thought, brilliant!  I’ll grill up some eggplant

and add it to the classic ingredients.

So I combined the eggplant with these components of the revered Caprese in a large bowl along with some juicy local garlic.

We drizzled a little balsamic vinegar over the top and finished with a quick pour of EVOO and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

And, though the tomatoes were amazing, and there were moments of pure satisfaction, (like when I had a perfect bite of mozzarella, tomato, and basil) I kind of felt like the eggplant was interrupting something beautiful.  No offense to the eggplant, it just wasn’t really heightening the Great Caprese. 

This leads me to my favorite dish of the week.  It’s what nourished my soul and my belly at the end of a long day of work.  The answer to the nagging tagline I kept hearing in my head all week long, “Keep it simple, stupid.” 

Poached eggs over fresh tomatoes and basil on a whole wheat baguette from H&F Bakery with homemade hummus and a sprinkling of that Pecorino cheese.

So few ingredients- they really just got to be themselves.

I drizzled the bread with a little EVOO and toasted it in the oven to create the vehicle for delivery.

While the bread was warming, I sliced my tomatoes and picked my basil leaves.

Gorgeous tomato!  Thank you, Turtle Bend!!  I spread on some of my hummus, tasty but not overpowering, onto my bread.  And then I layered my juicy tomatoes and basil.

I poached my eggs in my cute little poachers,

because I find I cannot yet poach eggs in water like they do on TV without making a giant mess of things.  I’ll get there, I just need more practice.

I nestled those eggs upon my basil leaves, knowing that their gooey centers would provide just the right amount of richness to my late night dinner.

And the cheese topped it all off.

This is what I had been looking for all week long.  Every bite resounded with freshness and the tastes of summer time.  Tomato juice was dripping down my hands and face, and I was smiling.  And, although I thought I could never eat both halves, I am not ashamed to show you this.

Mmhmm.  I used that bread to mop up every last drop of goodness.  I felt satisfied and amused by the irony of the situation.  What I really wanted after all was a tomato sandwich.  On really good bread, with the simplest of accompaniments.   

Ah, I live and I learn.  Respect the ingredients and let them lead the way.  Enjoy the simplicity of the goodness. 

Thankfully, the tomatoes keep rolling in, and I vow to enjoy more tomato sandwiches and let the tomato be the rock star that it is. 

I hope you’ll indulge in a simple tomato sandwich this week, and let the juices of summer time roll down your face and hands.  Enjoy the gifts of the season!

Happy cooking and eating to you,

ashli

www.plantoplate.com

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  1. […] If you are fortunate enough to have an enormous bowl of tomatoes on your table too, here are a few ideas for you to peruse: helter swelter, nola love, more than a crush, time in a bottle, cross cultural, and good and plenty: a story of tomatoes. […]

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  2. […] I had a moment that was remarkably similar to an epiphany I had last summer and wrote about in good and plenty: a story of tomatoes.  The date of that post was July 20, 2011- almost exactly one year […]

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