It happens every summer. After months of waiting, July rolls around and suddenly, the heirloom tomatoes arrive! And by "heirloom tomatoes," I mean just about any variety of non-hybrid tomato, especially the ones with unusual colors and shapes. Those different kinds all have unique flavors, which is part of the fun. Throughout most of the United States, they're available only from July through September.
Even if you don't splurge on heirloom tomatoes, any super-ripe, locally-grown tomatoes are worthy of celebration. And if you grow them yourself, you know there's absolutely nothing better. Keep reading for the best ways to make these summer gems shine.
1. Can them. Last year, I spent a couple of days bottling a ridiculous amount of tomatoes. I did it partly to capture a bit of summer magic for the winter and partly because I'm worried about all the BPA in canned foods. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to keep opening those bottles of gold, green, orange, red, and purple goodness all winter long. Check out this tutorial and video on how you can do it too.
2. Spaghetti sauce. Whether you're making a classic marinara or a bolognese, skip the default can of tomatoes and use fresh ones instead. If you're feeling ambitious, you can poach them to remove the skins, but it's not mandatory. Throw some into a blender or food processor. Or, even more fun, put some in a large bowl and squash them with your own bare hands!
3. Caprese salad. This barely merits a recipe -- basically you slice up some tomatoes and some fresh mozzarella, tear up some basil leaves, and drizzle the whole thing with olive oil. I like mine with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. Try the traditional or on skewers. And take a look at this vegan variety by Momofuku chef David Chang.
4. Salsa cruda. In other words, leave the canned stuff on the shelf and make your own fresh salsa. My dad taught me his version: chopped onion, minced jalapeno, 5-6 chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, a little lime juice, and some salt in the blender, pulsed just a few times. You can try another version with this recipe.
5. Gazpacho. But you already knew about that one! Here are a few recipes to get you started.
6. BLT. You know the drill: toasted bread, mayo, bacon, lettuce (preferably iceberg), and fat slices of tomato. Or, for the meatless version, there is the perfect plain tomato sandwich.
7. Panzanella, or Tuscan bread salad. Another super-easy one, basically chopped tomatoes tossed with stale bread, which soaks up the tomato juice. Some make theirs with anchovies. Try the classic or the BLT Panzanella.
And those are just the hot-kitchen recipes that don't require roasting or stewing! Trust me, that's only the beginning. Either way, relish tomato season!
What's your favorite way to eat summer tomatoes?
Image via nowviskie/Flickr