Let’s start with “The Trinity”
These three summer-fresh vegetables have been part of my own food-lore for as long as I can remember. So many summer meals in my life have been made up of this “trinity” that grows so abundantly here in Tennessee.
As a child in West Tennessee, I and my playmates would pick ripe tomatoes fresh from the vine in the mid-day sun and bite into them, the warm juice running down our chins, dripping onto our clothes. It was a bit naughty and messy which we loved and as an adult I still love slices of warm, unrefrigerated tomatoes. The juice warm and sweet with a bit of salt is the most simple edible ode to the tomato I can think of.
I recall picking peas with my Grandmother on hot summer mornings…the sun not yet up, dew on the lawn as we went to the backyard garden, trying to get our picking done early. Sitting later in the day on the back porch with a bowl to catch the peas and a paper sack to toss the shells into beside me on the swing. I loved shelling peas then and I still do…this simple task that yields so much pleasure.
One of my favorite times of the summer was when the “corn came in” and all the women in our rural neighborhood would gather together at one person’s house to “put up” corn. Eunice & Dave, our next door neighbors, would pull a large flat wagon bed up under large oak trees in their back yard. The trees so big and old no hot sun could penetrate the foliage. The neighbor women would gather under these trees, around this wagon bed used as a canning work table before sunrise one day each summer and spend most of the day shucking and cutting corn, taking it inside the house to can …I do not think I was much help but I loved being there with the adults, listening as they talked and gossiped about everything under the sun while saving one of the best parts of the summer in glass jars. In my mind I still hear the all-day, softly constant sound of Shuck, Cut, Scrape, Shuck, Cut, Scrape…..
These days I do grow my own tomatoes, but my peas and corn come from local farmer’s markets. Here are two very easy recipes I made up last week using my “Tennessee Trinity”.
Recipe #1 – A Very Simple Bread, Tomato & Lady Pea Dinner”
Ingredients: A generous handful of homegrown cherry tomatoes; 2 cups fresh Lady Peas (black-eyed Peas, Crowder Peas, etc); Butter, Salt & Black Pepper; thick crusty bread slices cut into large croutons; olive oil; 1 cucumber & fresh Basil leaves
1. Wash, drain & cut tomatoes in half. place in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Cook Lady Peas in water just to cover, add a small chunk of butter, salt & pepper. Cook on med-lo heat for about 15 minutes, or until most of water is absorbed &peas are a bit soft but not mushy.
3. In a skillet over medium-hi heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add pieces of bread to skillet, toss well. Cook until browned & crispy. Remove from skillet. Set aside.
4. Peel & chop cucumber.Tear Basil leaves into pieces.
1. On each plate scatter a some of the tomato halves, cucumbers & basil pieces.
2. Place a spoonful of the cooked Lady Peas in the center of each plate. Scatter some of the crusty bread croutons over all. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, some sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
Recipe #2 – “Warm Polenta with Fresh Sweet Corn & Roasted Sweet Baby Tomatoes”
Ingredients: Sweet Corn cut from the cob; a few fresh from the garden baby tomatoes still on the vine; olive oil, sea salt & pepper; coarse ground yellow cornmeal; water; fresh basil leaves & Parmesan cheese
1. Wash & drain tomatoes. Pre-heat oven broiler. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place tomatoes on baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil & sea salt.
3. Place tomatoes under broiler and broil until skin is browned & tomatoes are slightly cooked. Remove from oven. Set aside.
4. Bring water to boil in saucepan. Slowly add in cornmeal while stirring. Cook over medium heat until polenta thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in fresh corn. Add in a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well. Stir in some fresh basil leaves. Remove from heat.
1. Serve warm sweet corn polenta topped with roasted tomatoes. Season with sea salt & fresh ground pepper.
….and then there was none.