Even though I live in the hot, hot desert, I still love summer! I love it even more since our raised bed garden has been growing magnificently the last couple years and our tomato “yield” is great. Because I mean, come on, what says “summer!” more than fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes?!
At least to me.
And my husband.
And our daughter.
You see, our heritages are Italian and we looooove tomatoes! I’m pretty certain my raised bed garden mostly exists so my husband can solely grow tomatoes. He humors us with lots of greens, herbs and various seasonal veggies in the garden that, honestly, mostly he and my daughter care for, but those could all die and, as long as his tomatoes survived, he’d feel like a successful farmer.
Each year he learns more about caring for the soil and when to get tomatoes planted here so we can enjoy them the longest without them stewing on the vine in the desert heat. Every morning he gets up with the sun and scours his babies, I mean, plants for hornworms, he plucks off unworthy sucker leaves, he rubs himself down with the aroma of fresh tomato stalks (or something, I just know he comes in smelling like tomato plants most mornings). And each year it gets better and better.
Why not love tomatoes so much? They’re so full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that they have been proven to help protect heart health, lower blood pressure, improve vision, reduce cholesterol, provide relief from skin irritations, urinary tract infections and diabetes, and stave off certain types of cancers!
Um, wow! Veggies are UHmazing, UHstounding, and UHtterly fantastic, aren't they?
This early spring, we were super stoked to find organic San Marzano tomato seedlings at our local nursery. My husband practically broke out in song, dance and tears.
You see, San Marzanos are his absolute favorite kind of tomatoes. I know. He has a favorite kind of tomato. Don’t you?
These are the Roma tomatoes he chooses to make his infamous “gravy” with. “Gravy” is what our families call marinara. It’s a northeastern americanism based on the definition of the Italian words for pasta sauce. It was a bonding moment for us when we met waaaaay back when because in Miami — where we lived then, there’s not a lot of people saying, “Man, I could really go for some pasta with gravy!”
Our grandmothers called it gravy. So, it’s gravy!
Gravy is great! Admittedly, though, it’s a little heavy in the summertime. Enter (my personal favorite use of San Marzanos): POMODORO SAUCE. This one is not called gravy by our families. I don’t exactly know why other than that it is fresher and lighter and quicker to cook.
Ahhhhhhhhh, summer. It’s the summer solstice.
I absolutely love celebrating nature. Living in the mojave desert, we don’t experience the full spectrum of seasons at our house, but I have found that celebrating them with ritual and observation anyway makes them all the more meaningful.
In my yoga practice, I pay extra attention to Suryanamaskara (sun salutations) during a seasonal shift. I drink in every inhale and fully release every exhale. I honor the rising and the setting sun every time I reach upward or fold forward. I do a few more rounds of these than usual and I mix in every traditional style of sun salutation.
Through yoga, we are always working toward true balance — just like nature does. We are part of nature. We reflect it, and nature reflects us. Nature is constantly moving in the direction of equal light! We are either ascending to long days full of light, or descending to shorter ones with more darkness. Our bodies, through yoga, are equally expanding and contracting into and out from a state of balance, equilibrium, symmetry.
Additionally, as a family we do something to acknowledge the change of seasons. Sometimes we spend time in nature. Other times we leave gifts for the birds and fairies in our garden. We may make little alters or tablescapes with seasonal goodies. And then there are the days when we decide to fully enjoy nature’s bounty and make a delicious meal out of only seasonal vegetables.
That’s what we've done for this summer solstice. One by one, we’ve been picking the San Marzano tomatoes and setting them aside from all the other varieties our garden is gifting us this year. We’ve been eating and enjoying the cherry tomatoes, the heirlooms, the beefsteaks and the pear/grape ones while the San Marzanos piled up in a bowl in the fridge awaiting a very special event: Solstice Family Dinner!
The star of the dinner show? Pasta Pomodoro!
As I mentioned, Pomodoro is a light, fresh, summery tomato sauce. It’s very quick to prepare and very hard to mess up. It’s utterly delicious when you strike the right balance of flavors and it goes well on virtually any kind of pasta, spiralized veggies or spaghetti squash.
In the true tradition of our grandmothers and moms, there’s no real “recipe” for this dish, so I’m going to do my best to give you base quantities to use, but I want you to use your eyes, nose and tastebuds to make it perfect for you. If it seems too dry, moisten it up with a little more olive oil. If you looooove garlic, add more. Be sure to salt it just enough to brighten the tomato flavor without overdoing it, and do not, I repeat, do not give in to the urge to cook this just a little bit longer. Turn off that heat and step away from the stove! After all, it’s summer. Keep it cool!
May the longtime sun shine upon you and may you share this meal with people you love!
for approximately 1lb of pasta
We love this so much, for our solstice meal we broke out the fancy china pasta bowls! It’s super tasty as is, or, for some added pizzazz, sprinkle on a little parmesan or drizzle on hot pepper oil/add a dash of dried hot pepper flakes.
10-15 Plumb/Roma Tomatoes (preferably San Marzano variety)
20 small/10 large Fresh Basil Leaves
12 Fresh Garlic Cloves
¼-½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Then slice each half in half lengthwise again. From there, cut the long strips into chunky pieces, approximately 2 inches thick.
Stack the basil leaves and gently slice them into thin strips or ribbons.
Carefully peel the garlic cloves and remove the root edges. Thinly slice each clove into discs.
Add the olive oil to a deep skillet and heat it over medium heat. Once the oil is just warm, add the garlic and let it cook mildly for 3-5 minutes. Do not burn the garlic and avoid over-stirring so the pieces maintain their disc shape and do not break. Once the garlic is softening, add tomatoes, basil and salt to the skillet. Stir to coat everything with oil. Cook over medium heat 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat, crack in some fresh black pepper and toss again. Let sit in the warm skillet for up to 5 more minutes and then pour over hot cooked pasta or veggies.