My new fruit and vegetable guy is set up in the doorway right next to our apartment. As is customary with the other greengrocers in town, he’s hilarious. Friends with every single old lady who comes to buy her daily produce, he chats with everyone, kisses babies, is patient with the older ones and gives a scrap or two to passing dogs. And you know what? He looks a lot like Jake Gyllenhaal, but with a belly.
We became friends instantly, when he laughed at my daily lists of “1 cucumber, 1 zucchini and 2 apples.” “You’re very specific!” he said, giggling. Now that he knows I’m American, it’s all he wants to talk about. His Jake Gyllenhaal-y eyes lit up yesterday, “Auguri per Obama!” Congratulations for Obama. I thanked him and he gave me my green tomatoes, while he joked with a lady about something in dialect. Before I got to my door he said, “I’ll keep an eye on your bike this afternoon!” What a guy.
These green tomatoes are generally used as a crisp addition to summer salads, but make a quick sauce with them and the result is not your average tomato. The acidity wears off during the cooking but that semi-tart freshness remains.
Spaghetti with Green Tomatoes
1/2 pound spaghetti
6 green tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
grated pecorino romano cheese
Bring a pot of water to boil. In the meantime, slice an X on the bottom of each tomato, this will help you peel the skin off later. Drop the tomatoes in the boiling water for three minutes. Take out the tomatoes and reserve the water for your pasta. Let them cool and peel off the skin. Chop in medium dice. In a skillet, saute the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic clove whole and the red pepper. Let it sizzle until it becomes fragrant. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for 20 minutes. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions for al dente. If you see that the tomatoes are losing a lot of liquid, pour in about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. When the pasta is done, drain and toss directly in the pan with the tomatoes, take out the garlic clove first. Sprinkle generously with the pecorino and serve immediately.
There's a lesson to be learned from my fruit and vegetable guy, and that is that we should all approach our jobs with the same youthful exuberance, that weighing produce and chatting with old ladies can be great, that even unripe tomatoes can be delicious.
P.S. Speaking of happiness, have you entered the giveaway to win $50 to Rag & Bone Bindery yet? That recipe journal is calling your name!