As far as I’m concerned, it’s worth the heat of July and August for the tomatoes. I’ve been getting Razzleberry tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and they’re so good I think I’ll try growing my own.
Since most of my favorite summer foods — bruschettas, caprese sandwiches, margherita or Neopolitan pizzas — involve combinations of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese, I bought a couple of basil plants at last week’s market. Fresh basil — I mean, walking over to the plant and plucking a couple of leaves — is amazing.
(By the way, I’ve recently figured out how restaurants get those skinny little strips of basil onto things: you roll up the leaf and slice it. This was probably obvious to everyone in the world but me.)
Lately lunch has consisted of bruschettas. I understand that, properly made, these don’t contain cheese, but the first one I had did, and to me this is the One True Way to make them. I’ve been getting wide loaves of French bread from the grocery’s bakery — I draw the line at baking my own bread; I just don’t have that kind of time — and the little globes of fresh mozzarella from the fancy-cheese bin. Half a globe gives me enough cheese to go with one Razzleberry, since those are smallish. I dice both of those, add two basil leaves, and stir it together with a teaspoon or so of really light olive oil. Spoon the stuff onto toasted bread… YUM.
Alternatively, slice the tomatoes and cheese thinly, spread on a pizza crust, add basil, and bake. You really don’t need sauce if you have juicy tomatoes. I try to remember to tuck the basil under the other stuff, or it’ll dry out to a tasteless little crisp.
Blue Baker makes a killer caprese sandwich (and you should all use the comment form to tell them to put it on the regular menu). They make it on their focaccia with, again, sliced cheese, tomatoes, and basil, plus fresh spinach leaves and a little French vinaigrette dressing. They have the cheese right now because they’re doing a Neopolitan pizza special, so I’ve been able to beg a couple of the sandwiches even though they’re not the special this month. The trick is to find someone who’s been working there since last summer and remembers how to make them. They’re easy enough to make at home, but I rarely remember to pick up the focaccia loaves, and it doesn’t keep well anyway.
So I’ve been eating happily. The down side is that the basil plants stink up the kitchen a bit — they’re pungent little buggers — but either the smell faded after the first couple of days or we’ve gotten used to it.