It might seem over the top to use the word "thrilling" to describe the end-of-summer arrival of a ripe tomato.
Yet, I would argue that when you reside in a place where clouds and rain are abundant for at least nine months out of the year, the brightness that a tomato imparts to your existence is no small thing.
When the tomato finally goes from green and rock-like to red and giving it's...well, thrilling.
So, I'm going to eat up as many as I can until they disappear.
One of my favorite ways is to roast them in the oven. Adding heat draws out juices and brings to the fore their full, savory umami-ness -- that fifth taste (along with sweet, salty, sour and bitter of course) first described by a Japanese chemist in 1908 -- umami from the Japanese word for deliciousness, umai .
While this tomato sandwich might seem simple, plain even, its flavors are most definitely delicious. Everything surrounding the thick slab of caramelized, collapsed fruit adds to its umami quality and makes the tomato shine even brighter.
These tomatoes will smell incredible while they are cooking, snugged together and dressed with olive oil, garlic and herbs. The scent of the roasting tomatoes will attract comments of longing by family members and even neighbors, who may be walking past your house.
Invite said people into the kitchen. Call out, wave them in. There is surely enough to go around.
Let them watch as you assemble the sandwiches.
Use good bread. A crusty roll is best. Let it become saturated with golden juices and olive oil, which only underscore the tomato flavor. Mayo flecked with thyme leaves adds richness. Be generous with it.
Cut the beauties in half, trying not to squish the tomatoes too much.
This sandwich is for eating outside. A front or back step is good. And in the sun, people.
Hand portions to those eager to receive. Eat together in a silence punctuated only by moans of approval as the juices drip down hands, arms and onto bare, sun-warmed knees.
Summer is at its end. We all know that.
But sometime during the darkness of winter, you will surely remember this moment, your mouth watering, your heart filled with light.
Roasted Tomato Sandwich with Thyme Mayonaise
4 Medium-to-Large Tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Garlic cloves, sliced
3 to 4 Sprigs of fresh thyme
4 Good-quality, crusty rolls
For the Thyme Mayonaise:
1/2 cup (or more, according to your preference) of mayonaise, store-bought or homemade
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Cut large tomatoes into fat slabs. Smaller tomatoes can be simply halved. Snug them into a baking pan.
Give them a generous pour of olive oil then add a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
Sprinkle over the tomatoes hearty pinches of coarse salt and pepper.
Tuck garlic between and under tomatoes. Toss on top a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
To Assemble Sandwiches:
Combine mayonaise and thyme.
Cut roll in half. Generously spread mayonaise on each cut side. Place two (or more) tomato slabs onto the roll. Add additional salt, pepper, olive oil as desired. Place other half of roll on sandwich.
P.S. While we are on the subject of the last of summer's ripe tomatoes, it would be negligent of me not to remind you to make April Bloomfield's summer tomato soup. For me, this soup is perfection itself. Don't tell anyone, but I always end up standing by the stove, scraping the bottom of the pot with a rubber spatula and licking the last bits off of it. This is after I've already eaten bowls of the stuff. Yes, it's that good.