Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fresh Tomatoes for Supper

You could probably go to a different farmer's market every day of the week in San Francisco. The Bay Area is well known for its local food scene and using fresh seasonal ingredients. The locavore food movement or trying to stick to a 100 mile diet is everywhere now but probably got its start or at least some of its momentum back in the '70s at restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Cooks here are really blessed to have a bountiful choice of fruits and vegetables available year round.

In the spring I went to the Wednesday afternoon Haight Ashbury farmer's market and bought a carton of fresh strawberries and ate them all right there on the spot. That was my first taste of the season and it would be another month or so before I could enjoy local ones here. Also got some really tasty lemon and pear marmalade from the Blue Chair fruit company stand. Sampled some spiced almonds, star thistle was pure food bliss beneath the towering trees of Golden Gate Park.

Right now the farmer's markets are at their peak here with so much available all at once for just a short time. If you pick up some tomatoes at the local market or have some growing in your backyard, this is a quick and easy meal you can tailor to your taste. It's particularly good with a variety of heirloom tomatoes but any fresh tomatoes will do. I usually make a few variations of this during the tomato season. Just dice up some tomatoes and put them in a big bowl with some fresh chopped basil. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar on top with some salt and pepper and gently toss. It's delicious just like that or you can add whatever else you like: olives, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, chopped anchovies, blanched chopped green beans, whatever you like. Let it sit about a half hour and then make a chunky pasta like farfalle or fusilli. Drain and toss with the tomatoes in the bowl, top with some parmesan or feta, and there's your summer supper.

(Note: I think I originally got this recipe or something close to it in a Mollie Katzen cookbook. She is from the East Coast but moved to San Francisco to go to school around 1970 and while there worked at the Shandygaff vegetarian restaurant. While visiting back east she helped open the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY which is still in its original location today and is a great place to stop for a meal if you are driving around upstate New York.)

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