Odd as it may seem, the simplest things in life may be what brings our greatest joy and satisfaction. A breeze in your face, the scent of a rose, the laughter of a child, the warmth of a hot shower: All of these are moment-to-moment experiences that can be enjoyed only if we notice and appreciate them. 

One of my most pleasurable (and edible) hobbies is gardening. The past couple of weeks, my garden suddenly burst into generativity. Fragrant herbs like dill, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, sage and rosemary waft through the air.

Hiding in the verdant foliage are French breakfast radishes, along with purple, green and yellow string beans. I picked a lot on Memorial Day and will tell you this: Bean picking is not for sissies. 

Raised beds are good for those of us averse to stoop labor and the backaches that it brings. Next year, I plan to raise my beds further

By the way, properly designed raised beds can even allow those limited in mobility or wheelchair bound to enjoy the earthy pleasures of gardening.

Picking those beans, I suddenly had renewed and profound respect for my co-workers in the watermelon harvest where I worked outside of Phoenix for summers during high school. Hard work for sure. 

My patient John P. gave great advice for preparation of soil, fertilizer and planting techniques. Now, I suddenly have a huge, bumper crop of tomatoes with a half dozen or more ripening daily. Every time I look, I see a new brilliant red, luscious Celebrity tomato peeking out from under the bushes.

In fact, I have so many tomatoes this year, the wind was blowing them over. So, I needed to stake up the cages because of the poundage of tomatoes pulling them down. My friend Dom S. helped me out with some used netting from his tennis courts that keeps the birds from getting to the tomatoes before I do.  

Of course, this many tomatoes requires immediate attention to consume while they are fresh. My first effort at consumption this morning was an awesome BST (bacon-spinach-tomato) sandwich on whole grain bread with a smear of garlic hummus. See sidebar for recipe. Yum!

One of my favorite salads — besides just eating sliced tomatoes with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt — is the Sicilian salad. While I have enjoyed many a caprese salad with sliced tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar in great Italian restaurants, I ever go back to the Sicilian recipe to deal with an abundance of fresh tomatoes. 

Of course, extra tomatoes can always be cooked into a soup, pasta sauce or canned, though canning exceeds my level of laziness these days. So, the solution is to remember your friends and co-workers. They often need healthy pleasures of simple but wonderful fresh food instead of the usual office doughnuts or supermarket veggies. 

So, when you have more tomatoes, beans or other produce that exceeds your capacity to use, bring them in to share. Your generosity will be much appreciated.

By the way, Bill M., thanks for the great bag of huge ripe tomatoes this week, which was appreciated by me, the nurses and staff at Island West. 

For now, though, I am heading to the kitchen to whip up one of those super Sicilian salads. Anyone got some nice goat cheese to sprinkle on top?

Healthy Bacon-Spinach-Tomato Sandwich (BST)

OK, OK, back by popular demand is my “BST.” Nothing makes my feet hit the floor out of bed in the morning faster than the savory aroma of Michelle’s sizzling bacon!

This recipe is actually a healthy variation on the classic, tasty bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich. By emphasizing guilt-free, tasty, fresh ingredients, high fiber, lycopene, vitamins, prebiotics, and healthy fats, it is not just for lunch anymore.

A BST for breakfast or dinner is definitely on the table and helps use up all those tomatoes.

Cook bacon in micro or broiler. This allows as much grease as possible to drain away. Blot firmly with paper towels to remove extra fat. The more you cook, drain, and blot, the more the saturated bacon fat gets reduced. I like peppered bacon for mine, though turkey or even vegan bacon can work with this recipe.

Toast a high fiber, healthy bread with at least 3-4 grams of fiber per slice. Ezekiel bread and OroWheat OatNut or HealthNut are my favorites. Gluten-free bread is also an option for those with a sensitivity or allergy to wheat or gluten.

Smear a layer of any or all of the following on the bread:

• ripe avocado

• hummus in your preferred flavor

• low-fat mayo

Apply a thick layer of sliced fresh tomatoes.

Finish with your choice of fresh spinach or arugula for extra spice. You can also use a deep green lettuce like Romaine, mixed greens, Boston lettuce and maybe even some cilantro if you feel adventuresome. A few fresh radish slices also add a nice dimension.

(SOURCE: Recipe from Dr. Victor S. Sierpina)

Sylvia’s Sicilian Tomato-Onion Salad

6-10 sliced, fresh tomatoes

1/2-1 thinly sliced red onion

Several fresh basil leaves, slightly bruised to release their aroma

Optional: Sprigs of fresh oregano and/or thyme and crushed garlic cloves 

Kosher or sea salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1/4-12 cup olive oil

Place in a shallow, flat bowl and layer. Chill, toss or Stir

Covered tightly, this mixture will stay nice for about two or three days before it gets soggy. You can add new tomato slices to the dressing as they come in to keep the salad alive and easy to keep on the table all week. 

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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