When a tomato is plucked perfectly ripe from the vine, you can stand in the yard and eat it just like a peach—with juice dribbling down your chin!
I’ve always been crazy for tomatoes. In grade school, there was a kid in my class whose mom grew plum tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes. (This was cutting-edge then!) He would bring little baggies of roma wedges and yellow tear-drops to school. Well you know those tomatoes just used to call to us from his lunch sack, so a couple of us girls swiped them once or twice and had ourselves a feast. These tomatoes were perfect just lightly sprinkled with salt. Of course we left something in return, peanut butter cookies or a florescent pink snow ball. We were definitely early gourmands.
Tomatoes are totally versatile; they have a thousand uses, both raw and cooked. Chop them for relishes and salsas; cook them into sauces and soups. You can smoke them, roast them, stew them and jam them. And of course you just can’t have enough salads in the summer!
They pair beautifully with citrus, olives and olive oil, balsamic and wine vinegars, countless cheeses … there are too many “tomato buddies” to list. Ginger, cumin and coriander are just a few of their spicy friends. And they play well with numerous herbs, especially basil, dill, thyme, rosemary, cilantro and parsley.
If you have even a slightly green thumb, Sweet 100s and Sungolds are super-easy to grow in flower beds or in pots on the deck. My friend Joani calls them yard candy! If you’re not a gardener, pick up nice, ripe, locally grown beauties at a farmers market, or look for Sunset brand fresh tomatoes in your grocer’s produce department. Full disclosure: Sunset Produce is a client of mine, and they do grow amazing tomatoes year round!
I’ve developed some delicious recipes with these wonderful tomatoes and I especially love their heirloom varieties. My recipe for Heirloom Tomatoes with Goat Cheese & Arugula is quick, easy and delicious!
Whether eaten alone or served with a grilled steak, this is one of my favorite late-summer salads combining the season’s bounty. This would be the perfect starter course for an impromptu patio dinner.
Another fave is Sunny Day Grilled Corn and Tomato Salad. I like to add in some torn cilantro leaves and up the hot sauce then spoon it over grilled fish or chicken as a light summer meal.
And if you’ve got the grill fired up for dinner – start off with my recipe for:
Grilled Bread with Bruschetta Tomatoes
Makes 12 slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes (about 2 to 3 medium tomatoes)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 loaf of rustic artisan bread or baguette
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat.
In a medium bowl, toss together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic, and salt, and set aside.
If using a large, “fat” loaf, cut with a serrated knife into six 1/2-inch slices, then slice each piece in half crosswise, making 12 pieces. If using a baguette-style loaf, cut twelve 1/2-inch slices from the loaf. (Serve any remaining bread with dinner.) Brush both sides of bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and grill on each side until lightly marked or toasted.
Place on a platter and immediately top with reserved tomato mixture. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
And one last word to the wise: Never …Never refrigerate tomatoes when not yet ripe! That dreadful practice zaps every bit of flavor out of them. Tomatoes are actually a fruit and, if picked a little early, they will ripen at room temp or upon your windowsill.
Here’s to a tasty tomato season! – Kathy Casey
© 2010 Kathy Casey Food Studios – www.kathycasey.com