I just bought my first tomato of the year. I am goddamned excited.
I'm not a dogmatic local-seasonal-sustainable eater. But, in life, there are certain things I believe in waiting for: tomatoes, peaches…I'm sure there are more. Well, maybe there are more.
But anyway, tomatoes. I have one. It's gorgeous and I waited a long time for it, because I love a ripe tomato so much I can't bring myself to eat anything but. Around this time every year, I start keeping a bowl of them on my counter, red and green and yellow and purple, sweet and sour and salty and umamilicious. For two months I'll keep replenishing it as they keep disappearing, pressed into service. Sometimes I'll pureé them to make a base for ratatouille, sometimes I'll eat them right out of the bowl, but most often they will command me to make my favorite summer dish, a spectacle of the season ready in minutes. I waited this long already, and I'm not going to wait much longer.
I get some spaghetti boiling in salty water while I dice up a bunch of tomatoes and throw them—with their juices—in a mixing bowl with plenty of salt, pepper, and a couple glugs of olive oil. If I'm feeling sassy, and if the tomatoes are particularly sweet, I'll give it a splash of nice, light vinegar.
I cover everything with a handful of arugula, and a few thin shavings of shallot on top. This is where it gets hard. The layering is important, so I have to fight myself not to dig into the bowl. Usually there's some meditation involved, but I suck at yoga, so basically this is when I start screaming obscenities at the pasta to finish cooking.
When it's finally done, I drain it and throw it on top of everything in the bowl and let it sit there, exercising patience for another two minutes. The reward is that the heat from the pasta will take off the shallots' raw onion edge and wilt the arugula. Meanwhile, I keep myself busy by shaving long, fabulous strips of good Parmigiano on top.
After those interminable minutes, I stir. I stir like the possessed, mixing it all up, stretching and pulling melting strands of cheese, coating the pasta in juice and oil.
And then I go out to my balcony, seven stories above the beautiful grime of Queens, where the hot air blows around me and I can hear kids below screaming at Mister Softee to finish pulling their soft serve. Bowl resting on my knees and ice melting too fast in my glass, I sit there and slurp away my summer.