Maybe it was the periwinkles villages my cousins and I would build on the sandbars every summer in Connecticut that made my childhood so special. We’d dig away the warm, brown top layer of sand, revealing the blue-grey, cool layers beneath. And we’d dig it away, piling and shaping and dripping into walls, homes, fortresses and passageways. Though my cousins would only visit our beach a few times each summer and our creations would wash away with the tide, those memories of castle building and moat digging are among my most vivid.
Or maybe it was the sheer freedom of my summers. I’d roam and explore our neighborhood and beach freely, on bike or foot. I made friends of our mail person, neighbors and the renters who’d move in and out all summer long. And with or without friends, I would adventure through the world my own tales and stories weaving through my mind, begging to be written down. But it wasn’t without any learning — it just wasn’t the workbook kind. On those summers, I learned to swim in the Long Island Sound with my grandmother as a teacher, and fell in love with reading thanks to Sweet Valley Twins books consumed on my family porch. I learned about money returning bottles and cans for deposits and budgeting for candy and writing supplies.
But really, maybe it was the sum of its parts. Not just the castles, swimming, freedom and creativity, but the peacefulness of it all. Summers were pressure-free. While during the school year in New York, there was homework, schedules, dance classes, rehearsals and school events to handle, in the summertime, there was no schedule. We did what we wanted, when we wanted. And we ate whatever we wanted.
I miss those summers.
Still, there are bits of them I can capture with my own kids. Particularly when it comes to eating. It was my grandmother who introduced me to farm stands, farmers markets and the value of locally grown food. Every summer, she’d task me with keeping an eye out for the signs that would direct us to our favorite farms when the strawberries were ready to pick or the sweet corn became ripe or the tomatoes were ready. And when they did, they would become part of dinner that night.
Almost every Saturday this summer, my kids and I head to the Orono Farmers’ Market to pick up produce and meat for the week. While we’re there, we also choose special things for breakfast or lunch that day. A crepe from Enchanted Kitchen at Fire Fly Farm. Croissants from Plymouth Pond Farm & Bakery. Perhaps some cheese or clams or smoked chicken too.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve excitedly filled our market basket with lots of tomatoes. We slice them and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkling them with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Sometimes, we pile them into sandwiches or use them to make salsas or no-cook pasta sauces. Other times, we plop little cherry tomatoes in our mouths like candy. How many tomatoes can one small family eat in a week? Lots and lots.
And sometimes, when it’s just me at home, I dice them up to make a dish all for myself. This Tomato and Spring Onion Baked Egg for One is good for any meal.
Vibrant, fresh tomatoes are mixed with sweet spring onions, piquant garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s baked until it begins to soften.
An egg — just one, and hopefully from the farmers market (they are just so much better than store bought) — tops the partially cooked tomato mixture. A sprinkle of parmesan finishes it off.
Then it bakes until the egg white sets. You can cook it longer, if you’d like a solid yolk, but the creamy, runny yolk is my favorite part.
When I dig in, I think about my grandmother. I think this is a dish she would have enjoyed — even if it’s a little more work than our carefree dinners of my childhood summers.
- 1 heaping cup diced fresh tomato
- 1 spring onion, quartered and thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
- 1-2 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced (optional, but recommended)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small (single serving) oven-safe pan, combine the tomatoes, spring onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir well. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir again. The tomatoes should have released some of their juices. Use the back of a spoon to press into one layer
- Crack the egg into a bowl and then pour over the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until the egg white is set.
- Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with basil just before serving, if desired. Enjoy!