An Ode to the Vine

It's tomato season and I'm enjoying that immensely. Between our humble garden plot and the handful of tomato plants that produce both sweet cherry and larger slicing tomatoes, and our bi-weekly CSA box that brings us beautiful selections of heirloom tomatoes, we've not got many days in which fresh tomatoes aren't making an appearance at our table. Whether it's just popping cherry tomatoes in our mouths as we carry our latest harvest in from the garden, or slicing thick wedges off of a beautiful tomato to be tossed with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella, we're feeling pretty spoiled around here.

Of course, sometimes we spend a little more time preparing our tomatoes for enjoying. One of our favorites includes making BLTs with thick-cut bacon, tomatoes just picked from the garden, and crisp, cool lettuce. A healthy slathering of mayo and maybe a little sliced avocado or a fried egg with a soft center to make it extra fancy finishes our sandwiches. With a sandwich like that, you don't really need more than a tall glass of sun tea to make it a meal.

Another favorite involves chopping a nice variety of fresh tomatoes and sprinkling them with a little coarse salt before adding some crumbled feta cheese, sliced kalamata olives, sliced cucumbers, and sliced green onions. Drizzle it all with some balsamic vinegar and good olive oil and you've got a beautiful summer salad that hold its own with just about anything you take off the grill. A salad like that just says summer all over.

You'll note that none of the suggestions I've made thus far involve cooking tomatoes. When they are this fresh, it just seems like a shame to do so. That's not to say I don't cook with tomatoes. I do and one of my favorite ways to preserve all the great tomatoes that are making their way into my kitchen now is to roast them, put them in jars or plastic bags, and freeze them. They make excellent pizza bases, pasta sauce, and more after being roasted. Nothing concentrates their sweetness and flavor like roasting them. But while they are fresh and just off the vine, I love trying to use that freshness and highlight it in a way that just isn't possible in the middle of winter. Savor these days!

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