Seasonal produce rocks, but it doesn’t get any better than a fresh, locally-grown tomato, whether you’ve nurtured it to ripeness yourself or found a friendly farmers market with an abundant supply. I find it hard to pass a market stand without grabbing a few. Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my house that eats them, so I’m always looking for ways to use those treasures before their inevitable decline. Here are my favorite ways to enjoy the best summer produce that exists: Tomatoes.
- Keep it simple. Spread them on a plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Done. Brilliant. If you want to get fancy, layer on some fresh mozzarella slices and a bit of basil.
- Make a classic BLT. Nestle those slices between bread slices and lettuce with a bit of mayo and bacon. Feeling a bit precocious? Add some sliced avocado.
- Create a delicious grilled side dish. On a large piece of aluminum foil, layer sliced tomatoes with sliced eggplant and onions, a bit of butter or olive oil, and your choice of seasonings. Seal the package to retain moisture, and grill until the veggies are tender — about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Oven roast for concentrated sweetness. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Place sliced tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for three to four hours. Roasting concentrates the flavors and the sweetness, turning tomato slices into something very close to candy.
- Create the best summer salad. Dice tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Sprinkle with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy as is or add other seasonal ingredients, like fresh corn, diced avocado, or cubed zucchini. Throw in some fresh mozzarella or feta cheese if that makes you happy. And toss in a handful of toasted croutons to make a brilliant panzanella salad.
- Make a cool gazpacho. Throw some tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and herbs into a blender with your seasonings of choice and enough liquid (tomato sauce, vinegar, olive oil, or water) to give it a soup-like consistency. Whirr it up, and serve chilled with a drizzle of olive oil and a garnish of chopped parsley.
- Sweeten up a pasta dish. Boil some noodles, and toss them with a skillet of sautéed garlic, tomatoes, and anything else your little heart desires. Fresh tomatoes don’t need much to brighten up even the simplest dish.
- Make (and freeze) your own sauce. You can buy tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes in cans. Or you can take the DIY approach for a cheaper, tastier alternative. Prepare a big batch, use some now, and freeze the rest in two- to four-cup batches.
Eat ‘Em Whole
Out of time to slice, dice, grill, sauté, or roast? Eat those fresh tomatoes like you would eat apples — one hand bringing the fruit to your mouth, napkin ready to catch the juice that dribbles down your chin.
Tomato season is the best!
Image Credit: Mary Gerush