When I was living in New York I had to wait until August for plump earthy tomatoes, but here in Louisiana, the season is now. Simple salads with aromatic olive oil and fresh basil are always pathways to the divine.
Pam and I visited the farmer’s market this past Saturday. We were able to go only once last summer together in August, at one of the last markets of their season. It was brutally hot and the pickin’s remarkably slim, though still quite delightful. I more than managed to come home with armloads of goodies.
For now the market opens at 7am each Saturday and I was amazed at the mob scene at that hour. No sleepy heads toddling around pinching melons, but bustling, chattering crowds with a live band playing, and our friends Cindy and Neil Johnson frying up beignets with poufs of confectioners sugar in the corner.We loaded our bags with several types of basil, scallions, okra, bitter melons, beefsteak tomatoes and heirlooms too. Pam nabbed a spectacular hanging plant for our home, and in the crook of my arm were sunflowers and zinnias. The best thing I brought home is the wonderful sensation of community that surrounds food, which can be found at farmer’s markets everywhere. Ripe peaches, pickles and pies- Peas, beans, corn and peppers- so much bounty from the fields and farms around us- but the joy is also in the gathering.My first meal with the tomatoes was this simply salad. No recipe needed- I just took slabs of fresh feta cheese and fried them up in a pan giving them a crusty edge. Tomatoes, aromatic from the warmth of the sun, were sliced into thick pieces then drizzled with fruity olive oil and red wine vinegar. A splash salt and grind of pepper until lastly fresh basil leaves were torn and strewn about.
A slice of some crusty bread I made the day before accompanied the dish as we enjoyed our lunch on our breezy porch- while the sunflowers bowed their heads in agreement.