The Siren Song of Summer

There’s a lot going on this week — summer nearing, the last few days of school. The calendar is full, my cooking commitments many.

Savoring my last bite of lunch before the floodgates open

Savoring my last bite of lunch before the floodgates open

As I sit here this warm afternoon eating one of my favorite summer lunches — crusty multi-grain bruschetta with ripe heirloom tomatoes, basil, olive oil, mozzarella and parmesan reggiano — I think of the next several days. It began this morning, as pal Ernie and I tried to go to the amazing, miraculous Santa Monica Seafood to redeem Groupons we’d purchased to make a seafood dinner this evening. Only Ernie made it, but the dinner will proceed nonetheless. From there, my weekend evolves as such:

• Mexican fiesta Friday afternoon to celebrate the last-day of my son’s third grade class, for which a chicken boils on the stove for my contribution: shredded chicken for tacos

• Last-day-of-school party at the home of our friends Clark and Robert, for which a pork shoulder boils on the stove for my contribution: carnitas tacos and Baja fish tacos (I will make 50 tacos)

• Saturday morning 40th anniversary potluck for my son’s Tae Kwon Do school, for which I will contribute a platter of crab shu mai

• Saturday afternoon/evening 50th birthday party for my friend Matt, for which I will contribute a large pot of vegetarian chili (his wife’s idea, not mine)

• Daddy/daughter Dodgers game with Willa and my friend John and his daughter Charlotte, for which I need do nothing but sit back and eat a Dodger dog or two

• Sunday late afternoon friends visiting for a hike in the state park and a casual early dinner

Don’t you get tired just reading that? We had to defer several barbecue and dinner invitations to following weekends, which are now full as well.

Summer, in general, is a busy time at our house and in our kitchen. In addition to the usual slough of barbecues and parties, we will likely host our 2nd annual Southern California Wine Guerrilla summer event at our home for our family winery. And as I prepare for my end-of-school taco fetes, I’m already planning a back-to-school “pop-up restaurant” fundraiser for the neighborhood elementary where my kids go to school.

Summer is not my favorite season for food — I’m partial to the red wine, wild mushrooms, soups and braises of the cooler months. I’m mostly indifferent to squashes and stone fruits, although I do like to grill and look forward to wild salmon, especially as we will be spending a portion of the summer in Alaska. But there is that one golden beacon of summer that makes the season so very worthwhile — the tomato.

San Marzanos on the vine

San Marzanos on the vine

For the first time in as long as I’ve lived in my house, I actually have a pretty promising tomato crop coming along. I’ve managed to keep critters both wild and domestic out of the garden terraces, and watch in wonder as dangling bunches of pineapple tomatoes, Boxcar Willies, San Marzanos, black zebras, sun gold cherries and other varieties edge daily closer to juicy ripe perfection.

My lunch is almost done, the sweet tang of tomato lingering on my palate, and then it’s on to the tasks at hand: finishing the boiling pots of chicken and pork, separating meat from bone, straining stocks, preparing for the culinary adventures of the next few days and beyond. But out those windows in the back, vines hung with glorious tomatoes soak in the California sun and promise simple lunches and dinners for one or two, salads and bruschettas and gazpachos, amatricianas and arrabiatas, as long as the season endures.

*   *   *

Multi-grain bruschetta with heirloom tomato & mozzarella
serves 4

8 thick slices whole grain bread
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4 oz. buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
8-16 leaves of basil
1/2 cup large shavings parmesan reggiano
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt

Toast the bread slices or — better yet — brush lightly with olive oil and grill on a hot barbecue.

Divide slices between 4 plates, two slices each. Top, in order, with tomato slices, mozzarella slices and basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil to your taste, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Top with a few shavings of parmesan.

Goes nicely with a chilled rosé.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessamine in PDX
    Jun 07, 2013 @ 04:57:15

    Tired? I got completely exhausted reading about your future list of activities! And I’m also off to Alaska! Though it’s only for a week, I’m excited to go back to the land of the midnight sun. What city are you headed to? I’m from Kodiak originally, but I’m staying in Anchorage where I still have some family (and thus a free place to crash!).

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jun 07, 2013 @ 16:32:20

      I do a lot of work with cruise lines. So we’ll be on a ship in the Southeast, visiting Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, as well as Glacier Bay.

      Reply

  2. Mom
    Jun 07, 2013 @ 15:58:03

    WG BBQ this summer? I would love that, just for kid hugging ops and Immy’s latest take on the world around her. We planted tomatoes and shishito peppers at new tasting room where there is sun. All doing well.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Jun 07, 2013 @ 16:33:32

      Can’t wait to see the tasting room. Will there be a grand opening party/weekend? I’ll come up and sign/decorate bottles! We’d love to have you guys down, Bruce wasn’t sure about the BBQ, it was gonna depend on progress at the tasting room. xo

      Reply

  3. rachelocal
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 16:37:35

    I want to have lunch with YOU! Love this recipe – looks simple but delicious. Nothing better than an “assembly” lunch.

    Reply

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