What to do with ripe tomatoes? The salad, sauce, and pasta recipes that make the most of summer’s greatest bounty.
With all due respect to stone fruit and watermelon, there’s no food that screams Peak Summer more than the tomato. It’s right now — during the hottest days of August — that tomatoes are at their ripened perfection on the vine, smelling slightly like grass baked with sunshine and nearly ready to burst with juiciness; truly, there is no more perfect summer food. That said, if you’re stumped with what to do with a backyard bounty or an overzealous approach to buying all the heirlooms at the farmers market, Eater editors are here, as always, with their favorite tomato recipes, from sauces to sandwiches to all manner of raw, salad-y preparations.
Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce
Scott Conant, NYT Cooking
I’m pretty sure almost everyone who gets misty-eyed over in-season tomatoes thinks about them in the simplest of preparations: Caprese, tomato sandwiches, simply topped with a drizzle of olive oil and flake salt. That’s because in-season tomatoes are an absolutely perfect food that should not be adulterated with other big personalities. I say this as someone who has a tomato tattooed on my body; I’m very serious about my tomatoes.
So, other than my tomato toast with butter in the morning, my Sungold caprese lunches, and the Brandywine I eat like an apple at around 3 p.m., my summer tomato consumption involves variations on Scott Conant’s very basic fresh tomato sauce, which essentially involves smooshing tomatoes with a potato masher in a bunch of olive oil. This bad boy doesn’t even have garlic in it; it’s really just an expression of the best of the summer tomato season. Now, I don’t necessarily use plum tomatoes every time; often, I’ll use whatever tomatoes I have lying around. Also, don’t tell Scott, but I don’t often peel my tomatoes — unless the peels are particularly thick or I’m really showing off for someone. People say it makes tomato sauces bitter, but I sure don’t notice anything. I do think this recipe requires a nice olive oil, at least at the end; if you don’t have a nice olive oil, then adding a few cloves of garlic toward the beginning certainly won’t hurt. Just don’t get too wild with the additions — it’s about the tomatoes, folks. — Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater Portland editor
Chris Morocco, Bon Appétit
Great tomatoes don’t need much, but there’s no denying the magical pairing of something creamy and salty to offset the sweet acid of summer’s ultimate fruit. Bon Appétit’s riff on a Caesar salad combines a thick, not-quite-Caesar dressing that’s whipped up in a blender with fat tomato slices, parmesan shavings, and some fresh herbs. It is stupid easy, but somehow showstopping — the kind of coy, “oh, this ol’ thing?” summer dish that makes you appear very together. Eating it can get messy — tomato juices and the dressing slide around on the plate in a Sloppy Steaks kind of way — but with the help of a napkin (or better yet, a bathing suit), it’s a nonissue. — Lesley Suter, travel editor
Sweet-and-Savory Tomato Jam
Meghan Splawn, The Kitchn
A little over a decade ago, I decided I was going to be the kind of person who made tomato jam each summer, no matter the significant cost, time, and labor this endeavor required. I stayed faithful for about two years, until Hurricane Sandy came along and knocked out power for a week, annihilating an entire freezer full of jam in the process. So that was it for me and tomato jam, until earlier this summer when this recipe from the Kitchn pulled me back in. Unlike the original recipe I’d used, this one doesn’t call for peeling tomatoes or chopping large quantities of garlic, ginger, and herbs. There is ginger, but only a tablespoon of it, and the remaining ingredient list is short and sweet. You just chop up a bunch of tomatoes, throw them into a big pot with brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, the ginger, and a few spices, then walk away for a couple of hours. The result, for me, is that I am once again the kind of person who makes tomato jam each summer. — Rebecca Flint Marx, senior editor
Gluten-Free Fried Green Tomatoes
Karen Rankin, Food & Wine
Over Fourth of July weekend, my boyfriend and I rented a cozy A-frame in Big Bear Lake and did what we naturally do to nest: make a mess in the kitchen. We had one massive and beautifully misshapen green tomato from our Friday farmers market, which the seller insisted was only good for frying. Fine, we said. Using this Food & Wine recipe as loose guidance (I happen to be gluten-intolerant, and the recipe happens to be gluten-free), we dredged our tomatoes in gluten-free flour, then a seasoned egg-milk bath, then sandy cornmeal crumbs, before frying them in a shallow skillet. After sprinkling with finishing salt, we dug into golden-fried, crispy tomatoes that had enough softened flesh under the crust to feel like a meaty main dish. (These are good for snacking on cold, too, though.) Highly recommend for long weekends in someone else’s house. — Nicole Adlman, cities manager
Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit
I really love cherry tomatoes, especially the sweet yellow ones that come in the Texas Two Step pack at H-E-B. Though delightful on their own as a snack, they really shine in this sheet pan gnocchi recipe from Bon Appétit, where the juice from the blistered tomatoes cooks the dumplings, making them soft and pillowy on the inside, while the oven adds a nice crunch to the outside. Paired with spicy arugula, flaky Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a lemon-garlic dressing, it’s a super-flavorful, low-effort summer meal that won’t have you hovering over a steaming pot of water. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Dallas and Eater Houston associate editor
Just a Really Great Tomato Sandwich
A no-recipe recipe
When it’s high tomato season, I eat tomato-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. Despite what plenty of articles and recipes on the subject will tell you, there really is no big secret here: Toast your bread, slice your tomatoes, spread mayonnaise on the bread, add the tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt. When I’m making a sandwich, I like to keep my tomatoes sliced thick — if I’m going open-faced, I’ll slice a bit thinner. Mayo quantity is up to you, but I like a visible layer. Add the tomatoes, and then sprinkle salt on them (I prefer a flaky, crunchy salt like Maldon or Jacobsen). Sure, you can obsess over which mayonnaise works best here or which bread or which salt, but I promise that whichever bread and mayo and salt you have is better than no bread or no mayo or no salt and it will make a thoroughly delicious snack or lunch. — Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor