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Photography by James River Media 

What to Do with the Season’s Tomatoes

The jewel of summer: the tomato. There’s nothing quite like one that’s been allowed to ripen on the vine in the warm summer sun. Of all the seasonal foods that are in abundance this time of year, the tomato truly shines as the embodiment of what summer tastes like. Whether you are a backyard gardener, a farmers market regular or just the lucky recipient of someone’s garden surplus, it’s not hard to find yourself with an abundance of gloriously tasty tomatoes this time of year. 

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the summer tomato — no matter its culinary form. Eaten straight off the vine, on a classic sandwich, presented in salads or stirred into gazpachos and salsas, there are a plethora of ways to enjoy the best part of summer. Here are a few new ways to work them into your meal rotation.

A simple dish hailing from Tunisia featuring gently poached eggs in a chunky tomato sauce with peppers and spices. There are countless variations out there, with additions of lamb, chorizo, potatoes, beans, eggplant, artichoke hearts, olives, salty cheeses and more. Because it features eggs, it’s often served in English-speaking countries as breakfast, although it’s quite popular in North Africa and the Middle East as an evening meal. It comes together quickly on the stove top, making a great weeknight dish. This version uses sweet paprika, but smoked is also good. Harissa paste is another excellent addition, but not necessary. 

  • Olive oil 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 2 sweet peppers, chopped 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper 
  • 6 cups peeled* and chopped tomatoes 
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 eggs 
  • Cilantro or parsley, chopped for garnish

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and peppers until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Lower heat and stir in garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in tomatoes and a pinch more salt. If using paste tomatoes, you may want to add a bit of water or wine. Cover mixture and cook for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to fall apart and give up their juices. Crack the eggs into the skillet over the tomatoes. Sprinkle some salt over the eggs, then cover the skillet and cook until the eggs are set, 5-8 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with a thick, crusty bread. 

*The skin of the tomato is a different texture than the interior flesh. Removing the skin creates a smoother dish. It’s not always necessary to peel your tomatoes, but the easiest way to do this is to blanche them. Use a paring knife to score an “X” on the bottom of the fruit. Drop them into a pot of boiling water for just under a minute, then plop them in an ice bath to cool. The skins should easily peel off. 

Farmer’s Succotash
This dish throws a summer garden bounty into a pot and calls it dinner. Serve over pasta or with a thick, crusty bread and some cheese. It’s a great way to serve up a lot of vegetables for dinner. (Tossing the eggplant with salt helps cut any bitterness within the vegetable, while also improving the texture.)

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2onion, chopped 
  • 1-2 eggplants, chopped or sliced if using a skinny variety
  • 1-2 summer squash, sliced or cut into wedges if larger 
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme and oregano 
  • Fresh basil 
  • 3-4 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped 
  • 1-2 ears of corn, sliced off the cob 
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (optional) 
  • White wine or water (no more than 1/2cup)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Prep your eggplant first. Toss it with salt, and let it rest in a colander for up to an hour while you prep the remaining ingredients. Rinse under cold water before using to remove excess salt. Heat oil in Dutch oven or other deep pot. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add eggplant and squash, cooking until they start to soften, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, corn, tomato paste if using, salt and fresh herbs. Feel free to add white wine or water if the mixture is too dry. Cook until the tomatoes give up their juices, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, garnishing with more of the fresh herbs. 

Tomato Pie
A classic summer dish, this recipe features a thicker, biscuit-type crust that stands up to the juiciness of tomatoes without getting soggy. Consider using pimento cheese as the topping for a classic Southern riff. 

  • 3-4 large tomatoes
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/3 cup oil 
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk + extra 
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese and/ or goat cheese (softened) 
  • Fresh basil/oregano/chives, finely chopped 
  • Salt & pepper to taste 

Peel* and core tomatoes, slice and drain on parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda (and a handful or two of shredded cheese). Pour oil and buttermilk into the flour, stirring with a fork until mixture cleans the side of the bowl and rounds up into a ball. (Add more milk or buttermilk here, up to 2 cups to ensure a smooth dough that spreads easily.) Spread dough out on the bottom of a greased baking pan. Mix shredded cheese, cream (and/or goat) cheese together with salt, pepper and some of the fresh herbs. Arrange tomato slices on biscuit crust, season with salt and pepper, then spread cheese mix to cover. Bake at 350⁰F for 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, then serve with the remainder of the fresh herbs sprinkled on top. 

*It’s not necessary to peel your tomatoes for this dish, although if they are a thicker skinned variety, you may prefer it. 

Tomayto, Tomahto
With so many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, it can leave one wondering exactly what is the best type to use for a particular recipe. Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types and the popular varieties within the type. 

Hybrid tomatoes are a cross of varieties that have been bred to yield more fruit, be disease or pest resistant or all of the above. Heirloom tomatoes must be grown without crossbreeding. This results in a consistent tomato year after year, with lower yields, less pest and disease resistance and shorter shelf lives. As a result, they tend to be found primarily at farmers markets during the summer. Both hybrids and heirlooms can be found in the following types of tomatoes: 

Cherry tomatoes
These bite-sized tomatoes include the popular grape and cocktail tomatoes. Easily halved, these tomatoes are perfect for salads but also cook down into delicious sauces. Popular varieties include Sun Gold, Matt’s Wild Cherry, Black Cherry and Supersweet 100. 

Beefsteak tomatoes
Beefsteaks are the king of the tomato world. Thick and juicy, these tomatoes are the perfect sandwich tomato as well as great for making salsa and other sauces. German Johnson, Mortgage Lifter, Big Boy, Cherokee Purple and Brandywine are all beefsteak tomatoes. 

Paste tomatoes
Also known as plum tomatoes, these thick-walled tomatoes have low water content and a meaty texture – perfect for canning and sauces. Varieties include San Marzano and Amish Paste.  

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