Composed Summer Tomato Salad

Composed summer tomato salad with fresh basil and shaved parmesan in a white shallow bowl.

When you’re in the thick of it (tomato season, that is) you don’t actually have to do anything to tomatoes. Yes, you can stack them up with thick slabs of buffalo mozzarella, heaping dollops of burrata, a smear of ricotta, your best balsamic reduction, and a drizzle of the fruitiest olive oil in your pantry but you can also haphazardly cut them into chunks, sprinkle on some Maldon salt and freshly cracked pepper and call it a day. That’s the thing with heavily ripe heirloom tomatoes, they’re a rare, gorgeous gift we only receive once a year* and when we have them, we need to make the best of them (however that may be.) I’ve been eating tomatoes nonstop this week, usually with a baguette that’s been heavily coated with fresh goat’s milk cheese and maybe some chili flakes. We’re in the middle of a heat wave in Vancouver, no one has air conditioning, and I live in an apartment without the faintest hint of a cross-breeze so I’m thankful for the ease that is fresh tomatoes on multiple levels. Here’s how I’ve been enjoying local tomatoes most nights; with a sense of playfulness based entirely on ingredient improvisation and of course, shining a spotlight on the natural flavour of the tomatoes. You’ll notice I don’t use any oil or vinegar here, feel free to add either or both if you like a more traditional salad.

*Unless, of course, you live somewhere perpetually warm and sunny (which Vancouver is definitively not.)

Composed summer tomato salad with fresh basil and shaved parmesan in a white shallow bowl with baguette slices and goat cheese.

composed summer tomato salad:

Big ripe summer tomatoes, cut into slices or chunks

Pinch of salt (I like kosher or Maldon)

Pinch of white granulated sugar

Fresh basil, cut into a loose chiffonade

Shaved parmesan

Dried chili flakes

Freshly cracked pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a shallow bowl or plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and white sugar. Let sit for 15 minutes. Give the tomatoes a little stir. Top with shaved parmesan, dried chili flakes, and freshly cracked pepper. Eat at room temperature with a glass of lightly chilled pinot noir. Enjoy!

Yellow tomato salad on a white heart-shaped plate on a blue background.

I’ve been listening to Chopin nonstop for about a week – it’s calming and it’s beautiful and I can write at the same time (when I’m writing professionally I find it difficult to listen to music with lyrics at the same time.)

Chopin – Nocturnes

Easy Summer Spaghetti with Yellow Squash, Tomatoes, and Quick Homemade Pesto

A round white bowl full of spaghetti, yellow squash, and grape tomatoes covered with green pesto and topped with parmesan cheese,.

I have a very bad habit of getting overwhelmed with summer produce, the choice in colour and flavour is unmatched the rest of the year (at least for me, in British Columbia). This means that I’m sometimes able to convince myself it’s a good idea to buy 6 summer squash because I can’t resist their sunny coats, or an excess of tiny tomatoes smelling of pleasantly earthy and dried out vines. Or, I’ll buy huge quantities of fresh arugula or that overwhelmingly fresh-smelling gigantic bunch of mint. Luckily, this recipe for Easy Summer Spaghetti with Yellow Squash, Tomatoes, and Quick Homemade Pesto is a common fix for an overabundance of vegetables. The summer vegetables can be swapped out for whatever you have in your vegetable drawer, the options are virtually limitless in terms of variety and methods of combination. The pesto is easy, and yes, extremely quick to put together and once again can function as a delicious means to using up all those slightly wilted herbs and greens lurking in the crisper. I use pepitas instead of pine nuts in my quick pesto, because I rarely have them in the pantry and I’ve always been sensitive to nut allergies (I’m not allergic to pine nuts, but my mom is and I’ve grown up trying to be very careful). You could also use slivered almonds or cashews for an extra luxurious texture.

easy summer spaghetti with yellow squash, tomatoes, and quick homemade pesto:

1 yellow summer squash, cut into 2 cm slices and then into thick matchsticks

1 pint grape tomatoes, washed

2 shallots or 1/2 a small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 package of spaghetti

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  1. Put a big pot of salted water on to boil while you cut up your vegetables.
  2. Prepare the spaghetti according to package directions and as it cooks sauté the summer squash, tomatoes, shallots, and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until everything starts to soften and the garlic gets really fragrant, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the spaghetti. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cooked vegetables and pesto, adding the cooking liquid in small increments until the desired sauce coverage is achieved.
  4. Serve the spaghetti in warmed shallow dishes with a liberal dusting of grated cheese and a few extra cracks of fresh pepper.

for the pesto:

About 2-3 cups of fresh herbs and greens, loosely torn (I like to use a combination of fresh mint, basil, parsley and arugula for this recipe)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsp. pepitas

1 tsp kosher salt

1 ounce of parmesan, grated

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Blitz together the herbs/greens, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and parmesan in a food processor until everything is finely chopped. Slowly pour the olive oil into the the feed chute until the pesto is creamy and emulsified, scraping down the sides a couple of times as it’s being processed.

I’ve been mostly listening to classical music  while I cook, that or Iris Murdoch’s The Good Apprentice on audiobook. I have really nice, consistently calming summer memories involving classical piano music playing with the windows open. I have just as many wonderful thoughts about cooking at the end of the day to relax and unwind, floating around on a cloud of Chopin with my pyjamas on and a glass of wine. Either way, pleasant feelings.

Chopin – Complete Nocturnes (Brigitte Engerer)