The taste of tomatoes plucked freshly off their stems, juicy and fragrant, is one of the glories of summer. Bring home a box or a bag of them from the farmers markets, or better still, grow them in your backyard. The taste is excellent and always makes us look for new, different recipes.
First, we think of the things we’ve loved year after year. At SavorSA, we share a love of tomato sandwiches that really does top the list. If you have some favorite uses for fresh tomatoes, we’d love to hear about them.
Here are ours:
1. Tomato Sandwich: Take our word for it: a fresh loaf of sourdough bread with a good, chewy crust is the way to go here. Toast a couple of thickish slices lightly, smear it with your favorite dressing (ours is homemade mayonnaise) then slice on the fresh tomatoes, letting the juice soak right into the bread. Some like to add hard-boiled egg, avocado or anchovies. Or all of these. But, that first sandwich of the summer is best unadorned.
2. Tomato Salad with Red Onion and Bleu Cheese: This is a classic recipe, often found in steak houses, but one that is always in style. We didn’t splurge on any part of this salad — the onions and tomatoes were grown locally, and we bought a modestly priced Amish blue cheese.
The other two parts here are drizzled olive oil and cracked black pepper. Put a luxurious amount of sliced tomatoes on a plate, scatter over some onion rings, the cheese, the pepper and sometimes snipped onion chives. For lunch — it’s all you need.
3. Gazpacho: Like potato salad, everyone has his or her own favorite way of making this summer dish. Make gazpacho with all fresh vegetables (or roast a red pepper enough to take off the skin) and use a careful hand with the “dressing.” This is the olive oil and vinegar that you can use to finish off the dish, putting in just enough vinegar to highlight the tomatoes’ acidity. If you have very acid tomatoes, you might not need any vinegar (or other acidic fruit juice, if you prefer) at all, or you might use a lower acid vinegar. Sherry vinegar is the classic, and taste as you add so it doesn’t overwhelm the sweet tomato and cool cucumber. Gazpacho tips here.
4. Tomato and Shallot Omelet: We rarely see a fresh tomato omelet on menus in San Antonio. But, thickly sliced tomatoes heated with a little olive oil in a saute pan with a few slices of shallot, then folded into an omelet, makes a brunch dish that is pure summer. Don’t let all the juice sizzle out of the pan — leave a little to drip out of the omelet. It’s great for soaking up with toast. Add a little cheese if you like, but the omelet is fine without it.
5. Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce: We recently saw a recipe where lengths of julienne zucchini were used as the “pasta.” Use a mandolin to do this. Also, when it’s in season, spaghetti squash is good, too. As far as “real” pasta, we like to use imported Italian pasta, as it is all non-GMO, as far as we know. If the sauce is tossed into the hot noodles, it will warm up slightly. Use chopped fresh tomatoes, a mashed garlic clove or two to taste; chopped parsley, basil, thyme; good-quality olive oil; salt and pepper. Add-ins can include chopped olives, anchovies, tuna, cooked chicken or whatever appeals to you at the moment.
6. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich: Grilled Cheese and Tomato is another classic, but you can bump up this childhood favorite with a lesser-known, imported or domestic cheese, add vine-ripened tomato and grill in a panini pan — or just use your standard method. It all works.
7. Appetizers: Don’t overlook the little guys — pear-shaped, red or gold or whatever you can find in the way of cherry tomatoes. These also have an especially good flavor when picked right off the vine. Serve them alternated with squares of fresh mozzarella or basil on toothpicks or skewers, wrap them in fresh basil leaves or, if they’re really tiny, use them as a garnish on another tomato-based dish.
8. Tomato Sorbets, Sweet or Savory: Tomatoes cooked and savory, tomatoes at room temperature — why not try something different with a Tomato Sorbet. Just to get you started we borrow a recipe from Epicurious for Tomato Sorbet with Avocado. Enjoy!