A very real danger looms that every post from now until the beginning of September will follow the same basic format: I will relate to you the account of a fruit or vegetable I found at the market or grew in my garden, and proceed to gush over it like a lovesick pre-teen doodling hearts in the margins of her notebook ( Sarah + tomato = <3 <3 <3 4ever).
I can’t help it. I want to fall down and worship at the altar of Demeter or Ceres or whichever deity you would like to consider responsible for summer harvests. Every time I discover a blossom in the garden that has started becoming a fruit or pod, I drop everything and run inside to grab my camera, snapping away like a doting mama. You know how parents are apt to show you picture after picture of their kids in various stages of, say, smooshing a first-birthday cake into their face? That’s how my photo library is right now, except instead of children, it’s pictures of orangey-gold squash blossoms and tiny, green cherry tomatoes no bigger than a pinky fingernail.
The problem with my obsession with summer bounty is that I’m also convinced that most of the produce doesn’t need much to make it the best food in the world. I foresee friends accepting dinner invitations, expecting that I’m going to serve them, you know, prepared dishes, only to sit down to a table bearing nothing but boule, some sliced tomatoes, and wine. Maybe some kosher salt and black pepper. Cheese, if I’m feeling fancy. And I’d probably never notice if those guests thought that it was an odd main dish for a dinner party, because to me, it’s one of the best meals I can fathom.
It turns out, though, that serving whatever goodness you find at your farmer’s market straight-up is completely acceptable. There was about a foot of snow on the ground this past winter when I ordered Deborah Madison’s book, Local Flavors (Louise cruelly brought it to the Yellow House and then moved out, taking all her belongings with her, howdareshe, and I had to get my own). Madison’s recipe for a “platter salad” kept me flipping to the same pages all winter and spring. Too many good things in season? No one dish to showcase them all? Turn them in to a platter salad—which is basically a nice Deborah Madison way of saying, slice up everything and serve it with a nice vinaigrette.
With crusty bread to soak up the oil and vinegar, and a nice light merlot from Ben’s vineyard—this is the perfect end to a long work-week. And since it featured the first (!) little yellow summer squash from my garden, it was also the perfect beginning to a long, quintessentially summer holiday weekend. Let freedom ring, and enjoy, everyone.
Cherry tomato, summer squash, sweet pea, & snap pea platter salad
Inspired by Deborah Madison’s platter salad in Local Flavors
This isn’t so much a recipe as it is guidance. The point is to incorporate anything and everything you take home from the market or your garden into one dish. Use the vinaigrette for any medley of summer produce.
You will need
2 pints cherry tomatoes (I used two different varieties; use whatever you have)
1 cup shelled sweet peas
1 cup snap peas
1 small yellow summer squash
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 or 2 garlic scapes (if you don’t have scapes, use regular garlic to taste), finely chopped
4 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (I have been fixated on white balsamic lately—crisper than normal balsamic, and easier to find good, cheaper varieties)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Make your vinaigrette first, so the flavors can meld while you chop veggies. Mix scallions, garlic scapes, vinegar, and oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Remember that this is going to be the only treatment your veggies get, so don’t under-season. Let rest in refrigerator.
If you want, blanch the shelled peas (I like them right out of the pod). Slice all cherry tomatoes in half. Shave the yellow squash into ribbons with a vegetable peeler (yup–raw! The same method that everyone used for raw asparagus this spring is perfect for raw summer squash).
Gently toss all ingredients with the vinaigrette on a big platter. Serve with crusty bread and a light-bodied red wine, like a merlot or sangiovese.