A funny thing happens when you stop watching the garden for a few days.
Twice daily visits don't make the tomatoes ripen more quickly or the beans bloom more profusely.
Instead, when left to its own devices, without a certain gardener obsessively hovering and puttering and pleading for produce, the garden quietly goes about its business.
The bees circle the cucumber vines, finally, finally pollinating the blooms and making baby cucumbers.
The corn grows taller daily, with silky tassles forming on tiny ears.
The beans stretch and grow, winding their way toward the sun.
And the tomatoes?
After four days away at the Garden Bloggers' Fling, the tomatoes reward my inattention with this:
Summer's first tomato harvest is an occasion. A celebration. The months of growing and nurturing the plants, the aggravation of soil disease and tomato hornworms, all are forgotten when juggling a handful of orange and pink and purple and yellow beauties.
Yes, red, too--but they have yet to appear. And honestly, they play a lesser role in our garden. With so many colors and shapes and stripes, it's difficult allocating garden space to plain old red tomatoes. But they're there. You'll see them soon.
The tomatoes are rinsed, dried, and photographed. This is, after all, an event requiring documentation.
Summer officially arrived.
I didn't grow up celebrating summer by eating bruschetta. In fact, I didn't eat tomatoes at all until five years ago. I still only eat tomatoes in season, from our garden or the farmers' market. The more oddly colored, the better.
As I gathered the first fruits--Cherokee Purple, Jaune Flamme, Blueberry, Sungold, and Chocolate Cherry--I snipped several sprigs of Genovese basil.
My hands smelled delicious.
It was time to make our summer celebration snack.
2 lbs. tomatoes, the fresher, the better. (Do not refrigerate tomatoes. They lose their flavor. Store them at room temperature.) I like a mix of colors and heirloom varieties, but red, round tomatoes work, too.
Several sprigs basil, washed and patted dry. I prefer large leaf Genovese, but you can also use Globe basil. The leaves are smaller, and you can simply strip them from the stems and avoid chopping.
2 "good splashes" extra virgin olive oil, which translates into 2 about tbsp. EVOO
1 "good splash" Red Balsamic Vinegar. I like Alessi's Aceto Balsamico.
Pepper to taste.
2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan (for topping)
1 loaf crusty bread, toasted or grilled.
1. Rinse and dice tomatoes, using a variety of colors, if possible. It makes a prettier presentation and provides a good mix of flavor. Place in medium bowl.
2. Rinse and pat dry basil. Remove leaves from stems, and mince leaves into small ribbons. Add to bowl.
3. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper to bowl. Mix well. Taste and adjust mixture to your liking.
4. Slice bread. Toast the slices on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until lightly brown, about 6 minutes, or place on the grill until toasted. We were in such a rush to eat the bruschetta that I just sliced the bread and forgot about toasting it. Grilled bread is really the essence of original Italian bruschetta, but we were hungry.
5. Arrange bread slices on platter. Spoon the tomato mixture on top of the bread, remembering that every time you take a bite, bits of tomato will fall down your shirt. Don't pile it too high, trust me.
6. Grate the Parmesan on top of the bread/tomato mixture.
7. Garnish with a basil leaf if you like. We didn't take the time for pretty. Did I mention that we were hungry?
8. Serve with a delicious, chilled wine of your choice. After years of being an anti-Rosé snob, I'm suddenly enamored with it. It's pink, it's fresh, sometimes it's a little bubbly...a fun summer wine. Try it.
We ate our first summer bruschetta standing up, leaning over the kitchen island, dribbling bits of basil and chunks of tomatoes onto our plates with each bite. I always envision us lounging by the pool with our first bruschetta, sipping wine, nibbling, relaxing into summer...but that's not our life. Some day, maybe, when the kids are older and life is slower.
For now, though, the first bruschetta is devoured rather than nibbled, while the kids run around in the background, while I cobble together something for them to eat before we rush off to the next activity.
And it tastes divine. Simple. Easy. Like summer should be.