Never too many tomatoes

Eat them fresh

September 18, 2008

I wait all year for in-season, juicy tomatoes — and then comes the deluge. Right now, my tiny garden plot resembles a tomato jungle, branches bent over wire cages, clusters of cherry tomatoes bursting at the seams. But I’m not complaining — especially not about a tomato picked right off the vine, warmed by the sun, spurting juice.

How do I like tomatoes? Raw! Raw! Raw! I’ll save cooking for another day, a cooler day, when the tomatoes aren’t so abundant and flavorful. In the meantime, here are eight ways I’m gorging on the good stuff.

  1. Pasta with fresh tomatoes
    Pasta with raw tomatoes and herbs. Make this uncooked sauce on a hot day and limit cooking to just boiling water for pasta. Other pasta dishes that work raw tomatoes into the mix (but require a bit of cooking) are pesto pasta, two-tomato pasta and summer zucchini pasta.
  2. tomato-olive relish
    Tomato-olive relish
    Tomato-olive relish. Top grilled fish or chicken with this zesty relish, or pair it with cured meats for a riff on the muffaletta sandwich. You could also stir it into cooked pasta with an extra splash of olive oil for a room-temperature meal or, chilled, for pasta salad.
  3. Tomato-basil bruschetta
    Variations on toast. Tomato-Basil Bruschetta shines with late-season tomatoes, but more often than not, I make the Catalan dish pa amb tomàquet: slices of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and the cut side of a fat, juicy tomato, drizzled with a fruity extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Delish.
  4. caprese salad
    A Caprese salad
    Insalata Caprese. The holy trinity of summer salads: tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella. I like a combination of tomatoes — heirloom, yellow pear and red cherry — which I layer with basil (whole if the leaves are pretty, chopped if they’re not) and slices of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and you’re done. This combination is also good as a sandwich or an appetizer (layered on baguette slices).
  5. greek potato salad
    Greek-style potato salad
    Salad. Beyond the classic Caprese salad, how do I love salads with tomatoes? Let me count the plates: Niçoise, fattoush, romaine with bacon and blue-cheese dressing, tabouli, quinoa, farro, penne with herbs, green bean, Israeli, Greek spinach, potato with feta and basil . . .
  6. blt
    A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich
    Sandwiches. Is there anything better than a thick slice of ripe, juicy tomato dripping from a BLT or burger? Gild the lily and stir a spoonful of pesto into the mayo. Another sandwich that makes the most of in-season tomatoes is grilled mozzarella with pesto and tomato.
  7. Cold gazpacho soup
    Gazpacho. This soup is a Culinate standby, not only because it’s a cinch to make, but also because it’s so dang good. If the forecast says HOT, make a big batch to stow in the fridge and dip into to cool off. Lunch, appetizer, dinner — it’s all good.
  8. Tomato-avocado salsa
    Tomato-Avocado Salsa. Sure, we all have a favorite brand of salsa we buy year-round, but now’s the time to seize the tomato and make your own. This salsa is tasty with chips or as a taco condiment; try it with grilled shrimp or beef.

Carrie Floyd is Culinate’s food editor.

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