For me, tomatoes are symbolic flavors of summer: the ones that are red inside and out and actually smell like tomatoes. Watermelons are second in line. During last week’s holiday, one morning in our summer house, my brother and I took a delicious tomato, grated one half and cut into cubes the other half, picked 4-5 leaves of basil from the garden and thinly chopped them. We crushed a clove of garlic with salt and made it into a puree. We then mixed all in a bowl and added extra virgin olive oil. We spread it generously over our toasted breads and had a delicious breakfast. During breakfast, we talked about how simple and satisfying Italian recipes are. Satisfying for the stomach, for the eye and for the taste buds.
It’s very difficult for me to make a decision at a large open buffet at a hotel or at a restaurant with a menu of more than 2 pages. I guess I don’t believe that it is possible to make all types of meals well in one kitchen. Yet the past 10-15 years have seen the city sprawl with a specific type of cafe, ones with menus that must have the following: starters, soups, salads, burgers, pizzas, pastas, meats, desserts. Recently a vegan-vegetarian category has been added to the mix. The result, if you ask me, is mediocrity. But we eat without being really aware of it because the presentation is good or the venue is nice or we’re with people we love.
Obviously, expecting restaurants to be perfect in every sense would be tiring and unrealistic. But it is also true that there is a certain beauty in the simplicity of certain meals where each ingredient’s flavor is felt, where each ingredient is in harmony with the others, where the mind is calm enough to enjoy the moment. It’s like finding the Mediterranean in a sundried tomato, falling in love with the crust of a sour dough bread, feeling at home with a slice of feta cheese or traveling back to your childhood with a slice of cold watermelon.