As summer comes to an end, I anticipate the arrival of large field grown tomatoes, ripe and juicy and full of flavour, warmed by long days under a heating sun, nourished by the earth rather than greenhouse hydroponics. There is just something different about the taste that makes me happy.
Tomatoes, a fruit of the nightshade family and native to Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, have a long and checkered path to the common household vegetable it is today. For many years they were considered a powerful aphrodisiac, toxic and downright deadly. What a combination! It is thought that Cortez introduced tomato seeds to Europe when he brought them back from South America. At the time, wealthy people ate from pewter plates which contain a large amount of lead. The acid in the tomatoes would leach the lead from the plate and people died. It took centuries before the poor tomato was freed from its reputation as a bringer of death. Robert Johnson of New Jersey, in the early 1800’s announced his intentions to publicly eat a tomato. It was considered a foolish act that could only end in death. It did not however stop people coming to see someone else take the risk.
Although the botanical name for tomatoes translates as “edible wolf peach”, many cultures have chosen names that highlight the more stimulating side of history. In French, Pomme d’amore (apple of love) and Spanish poma amoris, there is a reflection of this tradition. Hungarians named them paradice appfel (Apple of Paradise) while the Greeks chose pomadora, Golden Apple, and connected them to the life sustaining golden apples of Hera.
Witchapedia.com says “eating the fruit inspires love and passion. It is a good addition to romantic dinners and also good to eat to inspire creativity. A much-anticipated summer treat, fresh tomatoes are suitable offerings for first harvest festivals and are especially suitable for Native American deities”.
You will need:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped purple onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar or honey (optional)
1 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound penne pasta
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
Close you eyes and take a deep breath in and hold. In that moment of inward silence, find your intention for this dish. Holding your intention in your heart, release your breath and let go of anything that stands between you and your intention. Repeat if needed. Open your eyes and invite the compassionate spirits to join you. Begin.
Wash and dice the tomatoes, removing all the seeds.
Transfer the tomatoes to the bowl and toss.
A sweetener is optional. It can perk up the flavours but in this day and age when most things contain unneeded extra sugars, I can already hear someone saying “sugar …in tomatoes?!” Absolutely your choice.
Let the mixture sit for several hours if possible.
This is a good time to possibly cook the pasta just past “al dente”, unless you really like your penne chewy.
Combine the tomatoes and pasta.
There is a choice to consider here. If the noodles are mixed in hot along with the mozzarella and herbs, the cheese will melt as the salad is mixed and it is best served immediately.
If the salad is left to sit for a bit the pasta will absorb more of the dressing from the tomato mixture but the cheese will not melt it and the herbs are added.
Once again it is a question of personal preference. I tend to cook the pasta a little longer to soften it, mix everything together and serve but it is good to know it is not the only option.
A light summer meal when no one is up to really cooking. Try adding a little fish (tuna or salmon) if there is a need for protein. Makes a budget friendly side dish for Mabon.