They say birds of a feather flock together.
I think that’s why I met my friend Coley. We were both in New Orleans, eating and drinking, two bloggers who love to cook and travel and grow as many fruits and vegetables as possible in our backyards. We live a thousand miles apart, but the little islands we call home are very similar. And the way I feel about mangos is the same way she feels about tomatoes, which is completely obsessed. We don’t have to hide our nerdy fruit and vegetable enthusiasm from each other. It’s cool.She loves Sun Gold tomatoes, which I’d never heard of before I met her. I knew if this gardener from New Jersey loves them they must be special. She sent some in the mail a few years ago. When I opened the box it filled my kitchen with the smell of crushed tomato leaves. God I love that smell. I ate one and I was instantly sold, yet possibly ruined for all other tomatoes. It was the sweetest tomato I’d ever tasted, but there was so also that complex, super “tomatoey” flavor you only get from homegrown.Growing tomatoes in Florida is tricky. They get infested and diseased and they split, or they finally ripen up and then something else eats them. Enter my friend Leslie, another friend from my same flock, who manages to grow them in her Tampa garden despite all those challenges. She has a grid of Earthboxes in her backyard (along with some choice mango trees) and each box is overflowing with pristine veggies. Earthboxes are containers filled with rich soil and organic fertilizer. You fill a reservoir with water and it’s wicked up into the roots from the bottom, rather than drenching the soil on top. Once you plant them, you put a cover on top and it stays in place all season. No weeding. After exchanging seeds and tasting the early tomatoes from her garden, I decided to break out the Earthboxes I’d put away years ago. From here on out, it’s Sun Golds in Earthboxes for me. I still get some bugs and whatnot, but the blooms and sweet tomatoes just keep on coming. They’re growing so tall we added a trellis connected to the eaves of our house, and now I have to get out a step stool to pick them.So thanks to my friends Coley and Leslie for showing me the way!Here’s Coley’s recipe that I’ve been making every week. It’s just a few simple ingredients and it comes together in the time it takes you to cook the pasta, but Sun Golds are the shining stars.
- 1/2 pound long pasta (I used spaghetti)
- 3 cups Sun Gold tomatoes (or other sweet cherry tomatoes) sliced in half
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspooon salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (plus more to sprinkle on top)
- a handful or two of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, whatever you like), chopped
- Put a large pot of water on to boil and add a handful of salt. Coley says use enough to make it taste like the sea.
- Once it comes to a boil, add the pasta and give it a big stir. You can set a timer according to the package for al dente, but test it yourself toward the end of the cooking time.
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cheese. Squish the tomatoes with the back of a spoon so they release some juice. Keep mixing until it all forms a sauce.
- Once the pasta is al dente, reserve a few tablespoons of pasta water, then drain the pasta and add it to the tomatoes. Toss to coat, adding as much reserved pasta water and cheese as you like.
- Add the herbs just before serving.