The anticipation is so great you can almost taste it — fresh locally grown tomatoes.
It won’t be long.
Any day now they’ll be cropping up at farm stands and in our gardens by the basketful — soft and juicy, ripe and flavorful, from the smallest cherry to the most giant beefsteak, in all the colors of the rainbow.
After months of going without, or worse yet, enduring the imported offerings with their hard white centers and tasteless flesh, the end is in sight.
Get ready for the crop to come in with our list of 20 great things to do with homegrown tomatoes.
1. Make Caprese salad. Thick slabs of juicy tomatoes, equally thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, giant leaves of freshly picked basil, a drizzle of good olive oil, perhaps a little balsamic vinegar, crackles of freshly ground black pepper and sprinkles of sea salt. Heaven.
2. Cook tomato sauce. Feeling ambitious? You can find thick-walled plum tomatoes by the bushel, peel them, cook them and create tomato sauce for topping pasta and pizza for months to come.
3. Make fresh tomato sauce. Not feeling quite as ambitious? Chop up some fresh tomatoes, saute them in some olive oil with chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Throw in some chopped fresh basil at the end and maybe a shake of hot pepper flakes for a kick. Pour it over cooked pasta with a little grated Parmesan cheese and sit down to dinner.
3. Eat tomato sandwiches. Some sturdy bread, bright red slabs, perhaps a layer of mayonnaise or a slice of cheese, maybe even toasted or grilled. Yum.
4. Make salsa. Fresh salsa is better than anything you’ll ever get out of a jar. You can start with basic pico de gallo: chopped tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño pepper, salt, lime juice. After that, the sky’s the limit to the combinations you can come up with. Go crazy.
5. Fry green tomatoes. Chances are, before you have tomatoes, you will have green tomatoes, which are a treat in and of themselves. They’re the darling of every southern cook and loved by northerners, too. Keep it simple. Dip green tomato slices in a couple of eggs beaten with some milk. Dredge in a combo of flour and corn meal. Season with salt and pepper, and fry in a skillet of hot oil, flipping once. Drain on paper towels, y’all.
6. Stuff tomatoes. Filled with chicken or tuna salad, they’re a refreshing lunch. Baked with your choice of meat, cheese, rice or any other grain, they’re a satisfying supper that works for vegetarians, too.
7. Make gazpacho. What’s better for summer than soup you don’t have to cook? Top it with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, or maybe a drizzle of olive oil, some toasted bread croutons or a slice or two of avocado. (See recipe below).
8. Top pizza. Circles of brightly colored tomatoes baked on top of a chewy crust sings the song of old Napoli.
9. BLT. These three letters say it all.
10. Grill tomatoes. Try tomatoes with some grill marks on them for a true summer treat. Just brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and make sure they don’t fall through the grates. For a really decadent treat try our stuffed grilled tomatoes. (See recipe below).
11. Stack up a salad. Select tomatoes in a variety of colors: red, green, purple, yellow. Stack a slice of each like a tower on top of each other. Sandwich chopped onions, blue cheese crumbles and freshly chopped herbs between the layers. Drizzle with a favorite dressing like an herby vinaigrette or creamy ranch.
12. Saute cherry tomatoes. Toss in a hot pan with garlic and olive oil until they blister and pop. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs for a tasty side dish to any meal.
13. Bake a tomato pie. Yes, a pie crust filled with tomatoes and baked. There are hundreds of versions out there, and most of them have a generous helping of cheese and end with a slather of mayonnaise. (See recipe below).
14. Toss a panzanella. Juicy tomatoes are the cure for stale bread in this Italian classic. Take cubes of stale Italian bread, mix with chunks of ripe tomatoes and their juice, add bell pepper, cucumber, minced garlic, salt, pepper, torn fresh basil and dress with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Allow the salad to marinate until bread is soft.
15. Grill some bruschetta. Chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic, marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and spooned over crusty grilled bread. Be naughty; add a little cheese on top.
16. Oven-dry cherries. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle evenly with salt. Bake at 200 degrees for two to three hours until tomatoes have reduced in size and turned bright red. Better than any store-bought sun-dried tomatoes you’ll ever eat.
17. Pair them with fruit. Now all of the science geeks out there are saying, “But a tomato is a fruit.” Yeah, we know. But we’re talking about the tomato’s companion here. Put them in a salad with watermelon or peaches, or chop them into a spicy salsa with mangos and melons.
18. Make a tomato bake. Yes, it’s been too hot lately to even think about turning on the oven, but when the temperature drops and you get hungry for hot food, try out tomatoes in this yummy casserole. How can you go wrong with butter and a crumb topping? (See recipe below).
19. Save them. Fresh tomato season is short so among all the eating, don’t forget to save some. You can preserve them by canning them, or stick them in the freezer for a less labor-intensive method.
20. Eat them. Knife, fork, salt, pepper. What more could you possibly need?
STUFFED GRILLED TOMATOES
12 plum, roma or other small tomatoes, cut in half, seeds removed
24 small balls fresh mozzarella cheese (bocconcini)
½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Drizzle of olive oil
While grill is heating, halve tomatoes, remove and discard seeds.
Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, garlic, basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Place tomato halves cut side up and place a cheese ball inside each. Top each half with a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture.
Adjust grill heat to medium.
Place tomatoes on grill pan or basket, stuffing side up. Close lid and grill until tomato bottoms are nicely charred, cheese is melted and crumbs are browned. Remove from grill when done.
Makes 24 appetizers.
— Lisa Abraham
3 medium-sized tomatoes
1 9-inch pie crust, baked but not browned
6 large fresh basil leaves, torn, or 2 tsp. dried
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
½ to ¾ cup mayonnaise
Cut tomatoes into slices. Arrange half of the tomato slices in the bottom of the pie crust. Sprinkle with half of the salt, pepper, basil and vinegar, and top with half of the cheese.
Repeat the layer with the remaining ingredients, finishing with the cheese.
Spread mayonnaise over top of pie.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Makes 1 pie, 6 to 8 servings.
— Adapted from
3 large ripe tomatoes (about 1½ lbs.) cored and quartered
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and chopped coarsely
2 cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded and chopped coarsely
5 cups tomato juice
1 onion, minced
⅓ cup white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp. Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper
¼ cup minced fresh parsley or cilantro
Pulse tomatoes in food processor until finely chopped, about ¼- to ½-inch in size. Transfer to a large bowl. Pulse the bell peppers and peeled cucumber until about the same size. Add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Stir in the tomato juice, onion, vinegar, garlic, Tabasco, salt, pepper to taste and parsley.
Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before eating and up to two days.
Makes 8 servings.
— Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
GOLDEN TOMATO BAKE
4 cans (14½ oz. each) diced tomatoes
4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (save one long strip of peel from a tomato)
1½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. white pepper
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
9 fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly lengthwise
2 cups fine bread crumbs, divided
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
6 tbsp. butter, softened
2 pretty sprigs of fresh basil to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together the diced tomatoes and fresh tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and sliced basil leaves and stir together well. Taste and add salt if necessary. Spoon the tomato mixture into a large 9-by-6-by-3-inch baking casserole. Sprinkle evenly with 1½ cups bread crumbs.
Mix together the brown sugar, ½ cup bread crumbs, and butter in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the butter-crumb mixture evenly over the top of the tomato mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are bubbly and the crust is lightly browned. Garnish with a tomato rose made by coiling around the long piece of tomato peel. Arrange the fresh basil sprigs with the rose. Serve hot, at room temperature, or even cold.
Makes 12 servings.
— CookWise, Shirley Cooriher