The 4 Best Things to do With Fresh, Ripe Tomatoes
You could not overestimate how much I look forward to this time of year--the time of the tomato. There's just nothing like a perfectly ripe, heirloom tomato that hasn't travelled too far. Every year I tell myself I'm going to jar bright red Roma tomatoes, and every year around this time I get distracted, eating raw tomatoes at almost every meal, and I somehow lose the motivation. It's almost like I'm lulled into a false sense of comfort, as if I don't have to worry about the cold, tomato-less months that are around the corner. I can barely stand to write it, much less prepare for it. Let's not focus on that. Today there are tomatoes! And there are so many ways to enjoy them.
I refer to my favourite tomato recipe as a "pickled" tomato sauce, because it starts with letting chopped ripe roma tomatoes sit in a little vinegar for about 5 minutes. In the meantime I fry some fresh basil leaves until they're crispy--they make the most delicious "croutons" for serving. Garlic goes into the same oil, and then tomatoes with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Once everything is warmed through, the par-cooked sauce is done. Sounds strange but you'll make it every year after you first try it, guaranteed.
And with those same ingredients, you can make bruschetta in minutes. Good bruschetta requires good tomatoes but also good bread. I love an airy loaf sliced into wedges, brushed with oil, grilled and then rubbed with cut garlic. Toss chopped tomatoes of all colours in extra virgin olive oil and good salt before piling it onto the bread.
Speaking of bread, this is the only time of year I don't mind having stale, dry loaves around. Cube the bread and toss with cut tomatoes, shallots, olives, capers and a simple vinaigrette to make panzanella. It's simple but satisfying and beautiful enough to serve to dinner guests. And don't stop at this salad, there are countless tomato salads like the classic Caprese, Greek salads, and at my family functions, we shave chilies and onions over thin rounds of tomatoes for a salad that we eat with rice and curries.
But before getting to any of this, this I do with my first tomatoes of the year: slice them thick, put them between slices of good bread that's been lightly toasted and slathered with mayonnaise, and season everything with Maldon salt. The simplicity of this sandwich is deceiving. When eating it, I defy you to imagine anything better.