I really love tomatoes. Yes, "love" is the right word for it. I love tomato juice and bloody mary's too. Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers. Pizza with lots of pizza sauce and spaghetti with tons of marinara sauce are some of my favorites. Oh, and salsa...I eat salsa just about every day of my life. I love tomatoes with a slice of mozzarella cheese, a leaf of basil, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I love tomato slices with a sprinkle of salt and pepper just on their own. I adore cherry tomatoes, big boys, heirlooms...you name it. If it's a tomato, I will love it.
Two years ago, when I planted my first garden, I planted about 20 tomato plants. Yes, I planted many other things: squash, green beans, sweet peas, onions, and more; however, the tomatoes were the stars of the show. I am pretty sure it was because of how much I loved them that they grew so incredibly well. Each variety grew big and red and juicy. I picked them, took them inside, washed them and photographed them all. I was so terribly proud. I sent the photos to my mom.
Because I had no idea what I was doing, I planted the tomato plants too close together. Once the plants were fully grown, I could barely get in between them to pick all of my tomatoes. I didn't mind, though. I crawled in between the plants and breathed in that amazing aroma of fresh tomatoes from the vine. There is nothing quite like it. Many years ago, when we first moved into this house, Rose Cimino left a bottle of tomato scented hand lotion by the kitchen sink. I wonder if she remembers this? I loved this hand cream. Every time I washed my hands (sometimes I would just do it for no reason at all), I would rub on the cream afterward and place my hands up against my nose to take in a big whiff. Ahh, tomatoes. Tomatoes smell so amazing. Right now, I have a Burt's Bees toner that is tomato scented. I love the stuff, just for the smell. Am I weird or what?
Roasted tomatoes, dressed with olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese and Italian parsley, are a perfect side dish for a nice piece of fish.
I rarely smell the same scent when I am at the grocery store. I think those tomatoes come from too far away. Maybe the tomato scent dissipates or gets washed away? I don't know. It's sad. Every once in a while, however, I run across a batch of tomatoes at the store with this smell. It's never as pungent; but, the smell brings me right back to the middle of my garden, or as I like to call it, "heaven".
This very second, I am sitting in a Travelodge hotel room in Lincoln, Neb., just five hours shy of our house in Hanska. The first thing I am going to do when I get home, is plant my garden. I wonder if Claud will mind if I rototill the garden patch while he unloads the truck? Just kidding. Seriously, I really hope I am not too late to plant a garden when I get back. It's all I can think about. I dream about growing my own tomatoes again. I think I will give them more space this time. I want to make salsa, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, and so much more. Sometimes, I worry that the success of my first garden was due to beginner's luck. What if my eggplant, green beans, lettuce, and tomatoes don't grow as well or get bugs or a disease? I would be so sad. Oh well, I won't know until I try.
The night before I packed up my kitchen for the big move, I made a delicious tomato dish to go with our fish dinner. It turned out to be the perfect compliment to the fish. I baked the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Baking the tomatoes was almost as easy as baking the fish. Once these beautiful tomatoes came out of the oven, I just plopped them on the plate with the fish. When we cut into the tomatoes, the juices ran on the plate and mixed together with the fish, which rested on a bed of leeks, and was topped with slices of lemon. It was really delicious and pretty.
Time: 40 minutes
4 large tomatoes
4 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slick the top off each tomato. Place the bottom portion of the tomatoes into an oven baking dish. Divide the Parmesan cheese evenly among the tomatoes and place it on top of the bottom half of each tomato. Do the same with the garlic, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Place the tops back onto the tomatoes. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.