By Melissa Roberts
We have entered the twilight of tomato season, though you’d never know it from the looks of our CSA box. Tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes. Cherry, Juliet, heirloom, beefsteak…. As they sit on the counter, their shelf life beginning to wane, we begin to stress over how to use tomatoes before black dimple marks and wrinkles appear on their skins.
Yes, canning is an option or a big batch of tomato sauce, a solid standby for excess with pizza or eggplant Parmesan, even a homey stew. But when time at the stove and in the kitchen is short, quick ideas are the key to enjoying those tomatoes right now.
Knowing that fresh, locally-grown tomatoes will not be available for another year, let’s celebrate the bounty, stress-free, using these delicious ideas. Share your ideas in the comments below.
Cocktail Tomatoes. Rinse 2 to 3 cups of cherry tomatoes. Drain them but don’t dry. Toss with some celery salt. Let stand to dry. The salt will form a “crust” on the tomatoes. Terrific hors d’oeuvre with drinks alongside a bowl of roasted almonds.
Drunken Tomatoes. Halve 2 cups cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with some vodka and sea salt, then finely grate zest of half a lemon over and toss. Let stand 30 minutes. Serve skewered with toothpicks.
BLT. Whisk a spoonful of pesto (basil, scape) into the mayo. Spread on slices of whole grain toasted bread and layer with crispy bacon, lettuce, and tomato slices.
Grilled Cheese. Tomatoes and grilled cheese go together like peanut butter and jelly. Same idea applies to tuna salad in place of cheese.
Fresh Salsa. Finely chop 2 large tomatoes. Add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, 2 finely chopped scallions, 2 teaspoons finely chopped chile (more or less to taste), 1/3 cup chopped cilantro and salt to taste. Toss to combine.
Raw Sauce with Hot Pasta. Drop 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor with machine running until finely chopped. Add a handful (about 1/2 cup) flat leaf parsley and pulse until chopped. Add 3 large tomatoes (preferably seeded but optional), 3 tablespoons red or Sherry vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon hot chile flakes, a pinch of sugar and pulse until finely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Toss with 1 lb of hot pasta, preferably thin spaghetti or capellini.
Herb Roasted. Place 3 to 4 cups cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 to 2 tablespoons (total) chopped fresh rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper. Roast in a 425F oven until skins begin to burst, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle while warm with crumbled goat, feta, or blue cheese. Serve alongside meat, fish or chicken, over steamed rice, or scrambled eggs.
Provencal. Core 5 medium tomatoes and halve crosswise. Gently squeeze each half to remove as many seeds as possible. Place, cut sides up, in a baking dish and sprinkle lightly with salt. Combine 1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette, crusts and all), 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup (total) chopped parsley and basil, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Top tomatoes with bread mixture and bake in a 400F oven until tomatoes begin to get tender and collapse. Sprinkle tops with 2/3 cup Gruyere cheese and 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Drizzle with some olive oil. Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes more.
Pan con Tomate. A workhorse of tapas bars all over Spain and a good use of ripe tomatoes. Toast or grill 6 thick slices of baguette or country bread. Coarsely grate 2 large tomatoes with a box grater. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Drizzle bread with good (Spanish!) olive oil and top with tomato mixture.
Insalata Caprese. Cut a variety of tomatoes into slices or wedges. Arrange on a platter with 1 lb sliced fresh mozzarella or burrata. Top with thin slices red onion, capers and shredded basil. Drizzle with good balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.