I've always been an Autumn guy, but as I sit here in my suburban Chicago home and look out my back window into our yard with it's various flower and vegetable beds, I can't help but feel overwhelmed at what an amazing time of year it is right now. Late summer! It's literally a feast for the senses. As I write, the cicadas are singing their nostalgia-inducing song; a lawnmower is buzzing in the distance, and the gentle peeps from the neighborhood bird population tell me it's just about their bedtime. The air is thick with the smell of cut grass, and the recent rains leave an aroma of soil and wet sidewalks.
Hearing and smelling aside, there is one late summer sight that is so completely catching my eye that it makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else. We planted a lot of tomatoes this spring, and now the bright red fruits are suddenly exposing themselves all over our yard. We've been waiting all summer, and finally their time has come!
If you've never tried before, growing your own tomatoes is a fairly simple and very satisfying thing to do. A bite from a super ripe, sun-warmed tomato is something that all chefs dream about, and it puts every single super market tomato you've ever purchased to shame.
Here's what to do with a big, juicy, just picked, homegrown tomato: Procure a nice, thick slice of your favorite bread. Toast it. Scrape the toasted surface with a peeled clove of garlic, and then drizzle just a bit of extra virgin olive oil onto it. Then, while it's still warm from the toaster, lay as many thick slices of gorgeous, late summer tomatoes as you can on top of it. Sprinkle them with a bit of good salt, and then grind some black pepper on top. Next, crumble just a bit of your favorite blue cheese over everything. Last, finish with a couple of leaves of torn basil, and you've got something that's almost too good to eat. Late summer won't last much longer.