As the second half of summer slowly melts away, some people lament its passing. But in Texas, faced with the full throttle of the season, most of us just wait patiently for mercy. We’ve taken our joys of it weeks ago; the sheer delight at the sound of the word, the first dip into cool water, the balmy nights, the grilled food. Now, though, as August quite literally lives up to its name, that lazy old sun swipes the table clean and has its final fiery hoorah while we earthlings of the Texas variety languish in conditioned air and drawn shades. Or at least that’s how it is at my house.
Out my back door each evening the sun sets, and as it does, it quietly asserts itself over everything. Through the window I watch it hover, daring and harsh before it drops near the horizon. There, though, it looses it’s tough unblinking demeanor and begins to soften and morph quickly before it goes down. Each few seconds it changes in flushes of gold and pink, leaving the sky a thing of beauty when it’s gone. To survive this piercing interval of weather I take my pleasures where I can, and they are simple. A swim at Barton Springs, a glass of pink wine, a chilled salad.
In a feat probably never to be repeated, I’ve kept my spring garden alive. We never really got a harvest of tomatoes when we were supposed to because, I suppose, of all the rain in May and June. So I tented the beds with shade cloth and hoped for a mild wet summer. But with 100 degrees outside and July being one of the driest on record, I remember Rule Number One about hopes; Be Prepared to Have Them Squelched. But here’s Rule Number Two; Never Let Rule Number One Keep You From Hoping.
Even with the successive, bankable disappointments of my garden, there seems to always be a pleasant surprise. This year it’s the golden tomatoes. Like me, they grow faint in the withering heat, but they push through it to produce beautiful fruit with a sweetish tart flavor. Every year I include one or two plants of them, only to realize very few fruit. But this year there’s been a steady succession of deep yellow orbs. An unexpected bit of scrumptious to hold me over until fall.
Golden Tomato Stacks
This recipe is so easy and so delicious. It would be good with any tomato, but I really think the golden tomatoes work so well because good ricotta is a little sweet and the tartness of the tomatoes contrasts well with it. Here’s what you’ll need:
handful of fresh herbs (I used chives and basil)
whole milk ricotta cheese (Whole Foods has the best I’ve found)
salt and pepper
Tear or chop the herbs into small pieces and put them in a mortar and pestle with a little salt and a sprinkle of vinegar. Pound this to a pulp. Then add about one tablespoon more of vinegar. I used champagne vinegar, which has a nice sweetness to it. With a small whisk or fork, slowly add olive oil until you get the consistency and taste you prefer. If you like a puckery vinaigrette, then add less oil. But it will be about 1/4 cup. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste if needed.
Put a few heaping spoonfuls of the best whole milk ricotta you can find in a bowl. Mix in a little of your vinaigrette into the cheese. Slice the tomatoes and layer them with the cheese. Drizzle the rest of the vinaigrette over each stack.