Last year it was even more so – we planted eight vines instead of the usual four. A lot of tomatoes ended up getting oven-dried and frozen for future use or, handicapped by the flooded kitchen, I simply chopped them in the food processor, poured them into resealable bags, and froze them. We had a pretty tasty fall, winter, and spring, though – it’s awfully nice, in the middle of February, to partake of homegrown tomato salsa on your burrito.
This year we went back to four vines and – wouldn’t you know it – two died off. The net-net is that there are still plenty of tomatoes in our lives, but we’re free to enjoy them without the usual pressure. Here’s how I’m liking them best:
1. Tomato sandwiches
A veeery close second best version: BLTs on thick slices of my husband’s brioche-like bread. For extra oomph, I rub the toasted bread with the cut side of a halved garlic clove. Try it. You will be happy.
2. Tomato pizza
Best version: A simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato, pepperoni, and fresh basil scattered on right before serving. Especially good as the weather gets a touch cooler and football starts to show up on the TV.
Second best version: A simple tomato sauce, fresh tomato, shaved Parmesan, and grilled veggies from the freezer. That’s where we stash leftovers – eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, whatever – when we grill more than we can eat. And it’s a nice stash to have.
3. Tomato pasta
Best version: I sauté some shallots, add chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs (whatever’s around), and stir just until the tomatoes are warm, so they keep their fresh tomato-ness. I finish the dish with a drizzle with really good olive oil and shaved Parmesan. (You’ll find this recipe in “100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love,” paired with Pinot Grigio – but there’s also a varation on epicurious.com, from when I did it for Bon Appétit.)
Second best version: There is none. I love the best version so much I never make any other.
Best version: It’s hard to beat a Caprese – tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and salt – but it’s also fun to riff on the theme. I do a version with crumbled queso fresco and cilantro (pictured) and another with feta and oregano. Sometimes I add a drizzle of good vinegar.
Second best version: Any green salad with tons of tomatoes.
5. Tomato salsa
Best version: At my dad’s house, many years ago, when I had my first taste of homemade salsa. It was a revelation to realize it didn’t have to come out of a jar. And I still remember how good it was.
Second best version: Any batch I’ve made since – just tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt. It’s a pain dicing the tomatoes so tiny, but it’s a million times better than store-bought. A thousand million.
Best version: Oven-dried tomatoes, which we enjoy mostly on pizza, but also on sandwiches, and thrown into soups, stews, braises – anything simmering on the stovetop. (Here’s my recipe for oven-dried tomatoes.)
Second best version: Chopped in the food processor, then frozen. Waaay faster than oven-drying, especially since I don’t bother to peel the tomatoes. Then I use them for salsa, or to toss into soups, stews, and sauces.
What about green tomatoes, you say? Last year, I conjured my grandmother and pickled a few. They were awesome. I’ll be doing it again this year – but that’s another post for another day, when tomato season, sadly, comes to a close.
Meanwhile, what are your favorite ways to enjoy summer’s tomatoes?
Hungry for more? Join me this Saturday for Heirloom Tomato Extravaganza, a tomatolicious hands-on cooking class at Ramekins.