Photo by Ellen Silverman
This summer, field tomatoes that are the season's perfect pleasure will be rare and expensive, due to the terrible blight that is causing enormous losses on farms across the Northeast. My advice for the tomatoes you are lucky enough to find is that they are best savored with little adornment--just enough to maximize the experience of ripe summer tomato.
The often-overlooked key? Every tomato needs a little bit of salt to make its flavor vivid. Then drizzle over excellent extra-virgin olive oil--maybe a drop or two of sherry or balsamic vinegar--and/or a few torn basil leaves, and you're all set.
The best manifestation of this formula is the tomato salad recipe of Lucia Lo Presti, wine writer Anthony Giglio's Sicilian mama-in-law. Its lushness will make you feel intoxicated.
Lucia dresses her tomatoes a tavola, at the table, while everyone is seated and waiting. (The salt will cause the juice in the tomatoes to run and you want to eat them at the perfect point before total collapse--that is, soon after they are dressed.)
Recipe: Mamma Lucia's Insalata di Pomodoro
Slice the ripest tomatoes you can find into wedges and place in a bowl. Salt them generously and stir them with a large spoon, or toss with your hands. Add an abundant amount of extra-virgin olive oil, tossing again.
Spoon the mixture into shallow pasta bowls. If you want, and have access to, REAL, freshly made mozzarella, place a slab on top of the tomatoes. Pass a crusty loaf of bread around for tearing off big pieces to mop up the juices.