Foundation + Summer Tomato Pasta

I love food. I love to cook it, eat it, talk about eating it, read about cooking it…you get the idea. I don’t like to read about other people eating because I often get too jealous and want to go to Tuscany/Singapore/India and eat the bolognese, street food, dal, etc. they’re sampling too. It makes reading Saveur both heavenly and torturous at the same time.

I don’t know when my food obsession started, but I do remember when I decided to really learn how to cook. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college, and I was living on my own for the first time (as much as one can in a house with five other people and one bathroom which is a whole other story that shouldn’t be told while discussing food). And let me tell you, I was an AWFUL cook. Some things turned out fine, but I wasn’t very good about following recipes carefully. I didn’t have the experience using my own instincts to make up for the lack of focus yet. My boyfriend at the time later admitted that he had to make lots of trips to Wendy’s on the way home from the dinners I cooked that summer. I know this because he exclaimed one time, “Wow! This is really…GOOD!” in a way that left no doubt that there was a time my cooking wasn’t.

Now cooking is my outlet for creativity, and a way for me to relax. I like it almost as much as perusing the farmer’s market (almost any farmer’s market is my favorite place on earth). I love the height of the summer, when the berries are ending and the peaches are just starting and it takes all my willpower not to buy a whole 17 pounds to make cobbler and pie and sauces and… Years ago, I used to “punish” myself for buying way too much produce and letting it rot by skipping a week at the market. I practice much better self-control now, and having a husband happy to eat what I make helps too.

Here’s my favorite you-have-to-go-to-the-farmer’s-market-to-make-it “recipe.” As I mentioned, I don’t do recipes well, so this isn’t exact. An eccentric Greek scientist told me how to make this over the phone while we were waiting for others to join us for a conference call at work. I never talked to him again, but I’ve often thought about trying to find him and thank him, and I imagine passing it along is a way of doing just that.

He said to take a few big, ripe, juicy tomatoes (they MUST be farm or home-grown summer tomatoes) and cook up a pot of pasta – be sure to salt the cooking water (and I think penne, or shells work better with this than noodles, but it’s a preference thing). While the pasta is cooking, put a few hunks of soft-ish cheese that melts easily such as feta or mozzarella into the serving bowls. When the pasta is ready, divide it among the bowls, and grate those big, juicy tomatoes on a box grater (the largest holes work best) right over the bowls, discarding the skin once you’ve grated down to it. The tomato comes out of the grater in a thick, pulpy consistency, and the pasta melts the cheese and warms the tomato so you get a nice fresh sauce. Just add some salt and pepper to taste and you’re done. Adjust the cheese amounts to your liking too – I bet it would even work without it. I may try to add a little splash of good balsamic vinegar when I make it this summer, but only a little because the best part is that fresh tomato taste. Is it July yet???

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