The tomato—with the exception, perhaps, of the little grape variety—is one piece of produce that can really suck when eaten out of season. You know those mealy slices that end up on your burger? Yeah, like that.
Luckily, we're entering peak tomato season, which means a whole different breed of tomato is available—deep red, succulent specimens, firm to the touch, but bursting into juice and nearly melting on your tongue when you take a bite. Now is the time to load up on tomatoes that not only don't suck, but will entirely change your perspective on how good this humble fruit can be.
To get the best-quality 'maters, hit your local farmers' market in the next month or so (assuming you aren't growing them in your own backyard, an even better source). But before you stock up, plan to try a few of the recipes below so you can make the most of your tomatoes while they're freshest. All of these dishes showcase the fruit in its sweet, acidic, and juicy glory—the taste of summer, if there ever was one.
Triple Garlic Pasta With Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Breadcrumbs
This simple but flavor-packed vegan pasta dish highlights tomatoes alongside their best friend, garlic. Fresh tomatoes are slow-roasted with garlic and thyme to bring out their intense sweetness and mellow the garlic's bite. Olives and homemade garlic breadcrumbs add even more flavor, plus some satisfying texture.
The Best Fresh Tomato Sauce
A great way to preserve summer flavor is to make a big batch of fresh tomato sauce and freeze the extra for a cold, cloudy day. This recipe combines oven-baked tomato paste, classic slow-cooked sauce, and fresh tomato purée for an amazingly rich pasta topping, any time of year.
Easy Greek Chopped Salad
A crunchy Greek salad is a great summer dish—it doesn't contain lettuce, which is bound to get soggy in the heat, and it gives you a chance to show off fresh tomatoes, seasoned with a salty kick from the crumbled feta. Use the ripest local tomatoes you can find for the best results. Salting and draining the cucumbers and tomatoes removes excess moisture, and soaking the raw red onion in warm water removes some of the pungency.
Easy Sautéed Zucchini, Squash, and Tomatoes With Chilies and Herbs
Squash, another of summer's superstar veggies, cooks up quickly alongside tomatoes in this easy sauté. The tomatoes are cooked only briefly, so their bright flavor is preserved, and high heat browns the squash and zucchini without turning them mushy.
Tomato-Burrata Salad With Olives, Lemon Zest, and Basil
If you have a basket of beautiful, ripe tomatoes to work with, sometimes the simplest treatment is the best. This salad is an easy but dynamite combination of juicy tomatoes, creamy burrata cheese, and Kalamata olives, dressed with lemon zest, fresh basil, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. It's elegantly simple, and ready in 15 minutes—no cooking required.
Classic Pico de Gallo
Tacos, burritos, nachos, and Tex-Mex in general just aren't the same without fresh pico de gallo. Use the ripest tomatoes you can find, and chop, salt, and drain them to concentrate their flavor. Chopped onion, hot pepper, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime complete this simple salsa.
Seared Skirt Steak With Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Polenta
Polenta is taken to super-flavorful heights with the help of cherry tomatoes and pan-seared steak. Here, the tomatoes' natural juices deglaze the steak pan and create a rich sauce, with a little fire from hot chilies and pungency from scallions. Serve with a light salad to make it a complete summertime meal.
Baked Stuffed Tomatoes With Feta and Roasted Peppers
Instead of serving a standard salad as a first course, try making these easy stuffed tomatoes. Chopped roasted peppers, pickled banana peppers, garlic, feta, and spices pack them with bold, fresh flavors. This recipe works best with tomatoes that are ripe, but not too soft—you want them to keep their shape as they bake.
Grilled Pizza With Grilled Tomatoes, Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Marcona Almonds
Grilling pizza adds deeper, smoky flavor, and a generous helping of fresh, lightly grilled tomatoes makes this pie especially seasonal. Fresh goat cheese, charred asparagus, Marcona almonds, and chopped basil top it off.
Vegan "B.L.A.T."s: Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado, and Crispy Smoked Mushroom Sandwiches
A B.L.T. is easily one of the best ways to get a ripe tomato into your mouth. This vegan version is crisp and fresh, smoky and sweet, creamy and juicy—everything you want from a B.L.T., but made with smoked mushroom "bacon" and avocado.
Guacamole With Lots of Tomato
If you can't decide between salsa and guacamole, may we suggest loading your guacamole with fresh tomatoes? You get the creamy richness of avocado, plus the summery brightness of chopped tomatoes, and it goes great with chips or nachos.
Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad With Basil
Liven up the blah, everyday version of pasta salad by cooking fresh tomatoes until they burst, intensifying their flavor and coating the pasta with their juices. Add basil and mozzarella cheese for good measure, and pack up this quick dish for your next picnic or potluck.
Fresh Tomato and Caramelized Onion Jam
Homemade tomato jam makes an irresistible addition to an appetizer plate, plus it allows you to enjoy a taste of summer all year long. Caramelized onions add sweetness without a ton of sugar, and a little vinegar and red pepper flakes complement the tomatoes' light acidity. It takes a couple of hours' work over the stove, but the resulting sweet-savory spread is well worth the time.
Drawing from a traditional recipe, this gazpacho uses soaked bread as its base and is a beautiful way to let fresh summer vegetables shine. Chop up high-quality, very ripe tomatoes with cucumber, red onion, pepper, and garlic. Toss with salt and let the mixture sit to strain out juices, then quick-freeze it to improve the texture before blending.
Tomato, Alli-oli, and Chive Tartine
One way to get the most out of truly wonderful heirloom tomatoes is to use them on these simply delicious toasts. Slices of rustic sourdough are rubbed with garlic and olive oil and toasted, then spread with a garlicky mayonnaise and topped with fresh tomatoes. Chives and a sprinkle of salt are all you need to finish off this summer snack.
Panzanella With Artichokes, Black Olives, and Capers
Panzanella salad might be the quintessential summer dish—it uses fresh seasonal tomatoes and requires no cooking whatsoever. Using very dry or stale bread allows the bread to keep its shape somewhat when soaked in tomato juices, vinegar, and olive oil. Celery adds some crunch, and artichokes, olives, and capers give the salad a flavor kick.
Summer Sun Gold Tomato Pasta With Breadcrumbs
Ready in just 30 minutes, this simple pasta dish celebrates seasonal Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. The little fruits are cooked until they burst open, unleashing their juices to create a sweet sauce. The dish is topped with crispy breadcrumbs for texture, but it's the tomatoes that really shine.
Grilled Bloody Mary Salsa
The spice, smoke, and pungency of a Bloody Mary translate perfectly into a salsa. In this recipe, the tomatoes pick up a char from the grill, and Worcestershire sauce, lemon, black pepper, horseradish, and chile de árbol pack the dip with flavor.
Oven-Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Roasting your tomatoes with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar before pairing them with basil and mozzarella creates a sweeter, more intense version of the classic caprese salad. Other than the roasting time, this dish requires a mere 10 minutes of prep.
Pinto Bean and Rice Salad With Tomatoes and Cheddar in Banana Pepper-Chili Vinaigrette
For a livelier version of rice and beans, add fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and sharp cheddar. Top this dish with a bold vinaigrette made from ancho chilies and banana peppers, and prepare it ahead of time for a weekend picnic.
On a hot night, gazpacho can be the answer to your dinnertime prayers. All you need is a blender, a fine mesh strainer, some nice, ripe tomatoes (and a handful of other fresh vegetables), and hearty bread minus the crusts.
Eggs Baked on Grits With Bacon and Tomatoes
This breakfast dish piles flavorful bacon and tomatoes on top of creamy grits and is ready to eat in just 30 minutes. The richness of the eggs is nicely complemented by the acidity of the tomatoes and the smoke from the bacon.
Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs
Not only will this salad last in the fridge for five days, it actually tastes better the day after it's made, so set aside plenty for lunch tomorrow. Combine quick-cooking quinoa with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and mint, plus a simple vinaigrette, and you have a satisfying but light salad reminiscent of tabbouleh.
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