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Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes . . .

The farm stands are bursting with hundreds of varieties in all sizes and colors. One of my favorite dishes -- one that fairly shouts, "It's summer!!" -- is a plate of assorted, sliced heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled with a little kosher salt. It's fun to do a "tomato tasting" -- not unlike a wine tasting -- comparing the attributes of one tomato variety with another.

But I'd love some ideas for other uses for this summer's bounty. For example, do you have a great recipe for a fresh tomato sauce for pasta? What about salsas that allow the tomatoes to take center stage? How else do you use fresh tomatoes?

I'm heading to the farm stand right NOW!

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    1. Marcella Hazan has a series of three tomato sauces that are superb with fresh tomatoes.

      1. If you really do get a lot of tomatoes, take 5 pounds or so and reduce them to 1.5 cups of wonderful tomato conserva: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com/2005... (You'll need to scroll down to the middle of the linked page to see the relevant article.)

        1. Panzanella! I like mine simple: heirloom tomatoes, the mandatory day-old crusty bread, cucumber (peeled, for me), verrry thinly sliced onion, garlic, olive oil, basil, and the best red wine vinegar I can find (cobram estate shiraz caberbet is a current favorite).

          I'm a fan of letting the bread soak up the tomato juices, but the fry-or-toast-the-bread variety (which I think Marcella Hazan does?) is good as well.

          1. I'm not much on tomatoes (and my Mom and sister both grow them). However, they LOVE this simple, but cool dish for fresh tomato's.

            Tomato, Onion & Cucumber in Italian Dressing,

            6 tomatoes, peeled & sliced
            1 onion, sliced
            2 cucumbers, sliced
            1/4 c. Italian dressing

            Combine all vegetables in salad bowl; add Italian dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BamaLuver

              Funny, I do chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion, and TJ's Fat Free Balsamic Vinegarette, and refridgerate to marinate and marry.

            2. Make your own sundried tomatoes..toss in herbs,salt,pepper,garlic & olive oil. Let marinate for 2-3 hours. Bake in oven at 200 degrees overnight. Pour into mason jars..fill with olive oil.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sugarbuzz

                Jersey tomato, frsh moz, crusty bread, a little s&p. ahhhh!

                1. re: jnk

                  Oh, how I miss my favorite July dinner: broiled fresh bluefish, fresh Jersey corn on the cob, sliced Jersey tomatoes, and Jersey blues for dessert.
                  Alas, I am far from the Jersey coast!

              2. For a simple and quick summer tomato sauce: heat olive oil and butter, then toss in some chopped fresh garlic. Let the garlic get golden. Toss in some mushrooms (wild ones local to your area, shiitakes, etc). (Mushroom step is optional). When the mushrooms have sweated out some of the oil, you can add a few drops of wine if you like. Then, toss in chopped tomatoes - I've done this with cherry tomatoes, with larger tomatoes, with pretty much any kind. I leave the skins on. Add a pinch of salt. Stir, cooking until the tomatoes are falling apart and the juices are starting to explore around the pan. Add some shredded leaves of basil at the end and pour over pasta. It takes only a few minutes, and it tastes delicious and summery.

                1. I recently made a Heirloom Tomato Tart... SO easy... just bake up a tart shell and then layer on Mozz, Pesto and Sliced Tomatoes!



                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Dommy

                    I just had dinner but now I'm starving!!!! Gee thanks! :)

                    1. re: Dommy

                      I recently also did a tomato based tart. I made a crust with half whole wheat, half white flour (used Julia Child's proportions). Sauteed (in butter w/ a little olive oil) sweet onions, added a variety of mushrooms. Added tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to the pan and covered for a few minutes. Uncovered and stirred in goat cheese and fresh basil just enough to melt the cheese and wilt the basil. Spread the mixture into the tart shells, dotting with cherry tomatoes halved. Baked at 400. It was insanely good.

                    2. I had great luck with the Heirloom Tomato and Burrata salad from the "Sunday Suppers at Lucques" cookbook (it was the book of the month for May). It would be fabulous with perfectly ripe summer tomatoes!

                      Here's a link to the thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/397075

                      1. Ooooh there is nothing better than a sun warmed heirloom grown by the hubby, on some Wonder Bread (has to be Wonder, BTW) slathered with mayo, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper...delish!
                        Also, BLT's are wonderful too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: HungryRubia

                          I agree whole-heartedly, except for the bread, which can be anything except white. Sometimes I add thinly sliced cucumbers. If by chance, I have no bread, I have been known to slather my tomato with mayonaisse, sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat it right out of hand.

                        2. Freeze a bag of perfectly ripe tomatoes. Use for sauces. Remove skins by rubbing frozen tomato under running water.

                          1. My favorite way to cope with the sudden rush of tomatoes that late July brings is a "Sugo di Pomodori Freschi", an uncooked tomato sauce for fresh pasta. I use a recipe from "Italian Cooking at the Academy", a lovely cookbook from the now defunct California Culinary Academy.

                            3# peeled, seeded, and diced fresh ripe tomatoes (I use a combination of heirlooms for flavor and color)
                            2 Tb minced garlic
                            1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
                            1/4 C chopped basil
                            2 Tb minced parsley
                            1/2 Tsp hot pepper flakes
                            Black pepper to taste
                            1 Tb balsamic vinegar
                            1 tsp kosher salt
                            Mix everything together and let sit for 30 minutes (don't refrigerate - I'm sure you know never refrigerate tomatoes). Cook fresh pasta until al dente and dump in. One of my all time favorite dishes (about 4 servings depending on how much people eat).

                            1. We grow cherry tomatoes and a wonderful way to have them or grape tomatoes is to heat up some olive oil in a pan and saute them until the skins shrivel a bit or start to split. Add a bit of sea salt and maybe some fresh basil and boy are they good!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dalaimama

                                I second the cherry tomato saute -- try it with salt pepper and some chopped chives next time - fabulous! And incredible cold or room temp leftover the next day. It's one of my new favorite things to do with cherry tomatoes.

                              2. I'm with you! Can't get enough of the summer tomatoes. I tend to keep it pretty simple so I enjoy the tomato.

                                Slices of nice buffalo mozzarella, sliced heirlooms, fresh basil with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. (Ate this last night, so good!).

                                Chopped beef steak tomatoes with red onion and garlic to taste tossed with olive oil and balsamic.

                                I like making simple salsas for fish. Usually just tomatoes with a little bit of onion, olive oil, lime or lemon juice, salt and pepper. I'll serve the fish on either a bed of the salsa or I'll top it with the salsa (depends on how many tomatoes I have around). Occasionally I'll make a med style salsa with a few chopped olives.

                                Another fave is arugla and chopped tomatoes tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

                                When I get sick of those I'll stuff tomatoes with a variety of stuff - really whatever I have around. Last year I loved stuffing them with quinoa, black beans, and corn.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: kittychow

                                  I am relatively new to the tomato world and I would love to get some advice on picking a tomato, heirlooms in particular. I always hear looks bad = good tomato. is this correct? Anyone care to expand on how they choose a tomato? thanks.

                                  1. re: Yaxpac

                                    Not necessarily. Many heirlooms are stunning in both appearance and flavor. Purple Cherokee, a dark purple tomato with green highlights comes to mind, as does the German striped variety with red lines running through a yellow tomato. It is true that heirlooms don't have the shelf life of modern hybrids, and often the texture isn't as firm, but it varies widely. Just go crazy with it...try anything you can. Brandywines are always a good bet, as is the afore mentioned Purple Cherokee. Amanas are wonderful. Green Zebra are both beautiful and tasty with almost a lemony quality. Get yourself some Maldon salt, Tellicherry pepper in a grinder and have a tomat fest. Just don't refrigerate them. Tomatoes lose 30% of their flavor, permanently, if they get too cold.

                                2. with smaller, firmer tomatoes -- Romas, for instance: (1) cut them in half the long way; (2) squeeze out the seeds; (3) put them on a foil-lined cooking sheet, cut side up; (2) sprinkle them with a little kosher or coarse sea salt; (5) drizzle or brush them with a little extra-virgin olive oil; (6) roast them at 325 for 1-1/2 to 2 hours -- until they are looking pretty desiccated; (7) in the meantime, finely chop together 4 or 5 cloves of garlic and maybe half a cup of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley; (8) put a little of the chopped garlic/parsley on each tomato half; and (9) put them back in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve them hot, or at room temp, or anywhere in between.

                                  I did this just last night, and it's terrific.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ozhead

                                    I agree about roasting the tomatoes. Or make gazpacho with a variety of heirlooms.

                                    Here's my standard ingredient list:

                                    2 c. tomato juice
                                    8 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
                                    1 English hothouse cucumber, chopped
                                    1 red bell pepper, chopped
                                    1 stalk celery, chopped
                                    1 sweet onion, chopped
                                    1-2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
                                    2 garlic cloves, minced
                                    Palmful of cilantro, chopped
                                    1 T. red wine vinegar
                                    1 T. capers
                                    1 T. chili powder
                                    2 T. olive oil
                                    2 limes, juiced
                                    1 slice of bread, made into crumbs
                                    Salt and pepper

                                    You can puree this to your preferred degree. I like mine a little chunky. Make sure to chill it for several hours, at least, to allow the flavors to come together.