Yesterday we celebrated my sister Kathy’s birthday, and I decided to make a tomato salad for the dinner. So I walked out the kitchen door, made for the tomato plants and picked a basketful. I stopped on the way back to the kitchen to gather up a bouquet of basil, fragrant in the heat. This little summer ritual of picking warm tomatoes from the vine is what I’ll dream about in January. Simply being able to walk out the door, and to not be confronted by a wall of cold, dark, and ice, but to walk into a living world of tomatoes, basil, butterflies, and marigolds. Reader, I ate one of the tomatoes on the spot before it even got to the kitchen. I’m sure Jane Eyre would have confessed such a transgression. But most made their way into the kitchen, where I had a platter ready. I sharpened my wok cleaver, rinsed off the tomatoes in a perfunctory way, because what could be on them to rinse off? Bee dust? Rain drops? Butterfly footprints? They were organically grown, and smooth as polished rubies. I also had a favorite cookbook at hand, called “Cucina Fresca” by La Place and Kleiman. I consult it for all things simple and Italian, knowing that they would have something to say about something as seemingly straightforward as sliced tomatoes. While some might have you helter-skelter pouring Italian dressing over the tomatoes, these authors instruct you to taste the tomatoes first. “If they lack a citrus-acid bite, sprinkle a little vinegar on them.” Since I had already eaten a whole tomato, I knew they had the bite. So I sliced them (“slightly thicker than 1/4”), and arranged them on the platter, interleaving them with thin slices of red onions. Then comes drizzling. I just love drizzling. I drizzled a good quality extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes, and then dusted them with salt and pepper. Then, using a technique I learned from this book, I stacked four or five basil leaves on top of each other, rolled them up, and cut into thin slices. As well as drizzling, I love to strew, and here I strewed the basil strips over the tomatoes. Mama mia. All I can say is that we ate the entire platter of tomatoes, along with steak and a roll recipe that I will be blogging about. May you also have such beautiful dreams in January.