Summer is the season for one of my favorite culinary items: tomatoes. Now I know that you can buy tomatoes at any point of the year, but nothing beats the flavor of a homegrown, in-season tomato, fresh off the vine. I’ve been spoiled in my life. My mother always grew tomatoes in our backyard. Around the middle to the end of July, we had our first round of rosey reds.
This year, my mom still grew her tomatoes, but I picked my first batch up at the City Market in Kansas City, Mo. The great thing about getting produce at farmers markets is you can pick up, squeeze, smell and do whatever it is you desire to test out your produce. They might even let you taste it if that’s important to you. This batch had a deep, rich color, nice smell and smooth texture. I bought the entire box.
This sort of thing happens to me often when I end up at City Market. I buy all the produce I possibly can and then I have this overabundance and no idea what to do with it. Luckily for me, tomatoes are a very versatile item. I cut them up and put them in Corn and Black Bean Salsa. A fresh treat for the hot summer evenings (although, ours haven’t been extremely warm lately), the salsa is a great addition to salads, as well.
Another summer favorite is Italian Pasta Salad. This has been in my family for as long as I can remember. I would nag my mom for months asking repeatedly for her to make this salad. I’d get swatted away, usually being told that cucumbers aren’t in season yet. But right about now, they are. The mixture of Italian dressing, parmesan cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes and cold spaghetti is something I crave. I eat it for lunch, sometimes even dinner. It’s filling but light; the perfect dish for summer. For me, though, a tomato is at its best when it isn’t fuddled with much. A favorite treat of mine, is adding a cold slice of tomato to a hot buttermilk biscuit. The combo may seem odd at first, but the hold and cold aspects work nicely together. The butteriness of the biscuit and the sweet cool of the tomato is also nice. But in all honesty, I can just season tomato slices with a little salt and pepper and eat away — no additional things necessary.
Italian Pasta Salad
You can mix this salad up as much or as little as you like. I’d suggest adding fresh basil if you have it. It will be a nice compliment to the tomatoes and the dressing.
If you aren’t into bottled dressing, your own vinaigrette can be used as well.
For the dressing, I would start out with 4 ounces, but usually once the salad sits overnight, it gets a little dry. Do it to your taste.
1 pound spaghetti pasta
8 ounces, or half a bottle of Italian dressing
1 large cucumber
2 large tomatoes
1 cup of parmesan cheese
5-6 leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta according to package directions. Cook about two minutes under the cook time.
Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Dice tomatoes, cucumbers and basil and add to pasta.
Mix well to combine.
Add half of the dressing and cheese, mix and adjust for taste, adding more dressing if desired.
Add salt and pepper if necessary.
Chill for 24 hours and serve cold.
Corn and Black Bean Salsa
This is a great salsa to make right now because most of the ingredients are in season. For extra flavor, grill your sweet corn or tomatoes to get that charred flavor.
2-3 ears of sweet corn
1 can of black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper
Cut the sweet corn off the cob and set aside.
Cut tomatoes and red bell pepper and add to the sweet corn. Add beans.
Mix well to combine.
Add one jalapeno with seeds and ribs attached.
Add the second jalapeno but remove seeds and ribs.
Add lime juice and mix well.
Serve cold with chips.