I love the heat I have been taking out here... sun has been beating down on my San Marzanos getting them good and sweet. While I am a carnivore by nature, one of my all time favorite dishes for a hot summer night is a little fresh mozz and tomatoes. I usually leave the mozz in the freezer for about a half hour before I cut it- slicing is a lot easier and cleaner. Then I go to work on some big juicy tomatoes. Even if I'm making them for nobody but myself, I can't help but alternate the red and white in a line around the edge of the plate... to me, it is just the way it has to be... I like to get the whole plate covered and then I slice up some basil and scatter it across the top- one of the chefs I used to work for always yelled at me about that-"You're gonna brooze dem leaves up kid!!"- but I like a little basil in every bite and this is the best way I know how. Then, a little salt and fresh black pepper, a turn of the Fillipo Berio bottle around the plate and a splash of good balsamic vinegar.
This is one of the best summer dishes... satisfies the salt and sweet cravings and is nice and light for the hot weather. Plus, good for a Friday night when you're taking the non- carnivore route. The smell and taste of this always puts me in mind of summer... I know what it is too- its the basil, that sweet,smooth smell of basil always screams 'SUMMER!!!"
The smell of basil always does it for me... some people like fresh cut grass, others figure its the first crack of the bat in the Bronx... but for me, it will always be the basil. I used to walk home down 79th Street from Utrecht after I got off the M train. There was a guy who lived about half way down... he didn't have much of a yard, it was maybe five feet square. But it was just enough room for Our Lady on the halfshell and a forest of basil... I used to breathe extra deep as I walked down that block and always on his side of the street. One day I struck gold... on the way home one hot afternoon, I passed during the middle of a harvest... I expressed my appreciation for what he had done and I was duly rewarded for my honesty and developed sense of "The Good Stuff". My new friend was not pleased until I was walking down the street with my over-sized mitts each grasping as much basil as I could carry.
That night, many pignole nuts gave their lives so I could make the best batch of pesto ever... enough for two nights of dinner and still a generous amount to put in the freezer, to be used a spoonful at a time in soup, on pizza, and even striped across the top of a fritata.
Fresh cut grass is good if you're in the country and the Yanks will always be aces in my book, but if you want something you can only get in the summer, it has to be the basil... each and every time. 'Cause Johnny Tomatoes says so!!