Months go by—the entire winter and spring—with nothing but mealy, pale, tasteless tomatoes in the supermarket. Then one summer morning, you pop over to your local farmers market and holy moly! Piles of beautiful, luscious tomatoes in every hue from red, yellow, and orange, to green, purple, and nearly black. If you’re like us, you respond by loading up your reusable shopping bag with a pound (or three) of every type you see. How can you resist all that tomato-y promise?
Here, our top 5 ways to turn that haul into great summer meals:
- Get saucy with this Simply Delicious Tomato Sauce.
For the best, easiest tomato sauce, melt a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half a diced onion and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add a minced clove of garlic or two if you like. Throw a couple pounds of peeled and diced (ideally a good sauce-making plum variety like San Marzano) tomatoes, along with their juices into the pot. Sprinkle in a couple of healthy pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, for about 45 to 60 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed. At this point, you can also stir in a handful of minced fresh herbs—basil, oregano, mint, thyme, or savory will all add their own distinctive twist. Serve tossed with cooked pasta and sprinkled with freshly grated cheese.
- Go raw with an easy no-cook Raw Tomato Sauce.
Sometimes in the heat of the summer what you really want is to not cook. This quick, no-cook tomato sauce is the ideal solution. Dice two pounds of good meaty tomatoes (no need to peel them) and put them in a big bowl, along with their juices. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 to 3 tablespoons of good olive oil, a minced clove of garlic, and a couple of pinches of salt (taste and add more as needed). Let this mixture stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to let the flavors meld and then toss it with cooked pasta (warm or at room temperature) and serve. For variety, add some diced fresh mozzarella or crumbled feta, sliced Kalamata olives, or fresh, chopped basil, oregano, or mint.
- Spice it up with Salsa Fresca.
In a bowl, toss together 3 or 4 large tomatoes (like >>> or >>>) with half of a red onion, finely diced, 1 or 2 finely diced Serrano or Jalapeno chiles (leave the seeds and ribs in for a spicier salsa, remove them for a milder version), the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and salt to taste. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour before serving with tortilla chips for dipping/scooping or dolloped onto tacos or other Mexican fare.
- Combine summer favorites in Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Fresh Mint, Chives, and Feta.
In a medium salad bowl, combine about 3 cups of diced watermelon and 2 or 3 large, diced heirloom tomatoes. In a small bowl, whisk together about 2 tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Drizzle the mixture over the watermelon and tomato, then sprinkle the salad with about 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, 2 tablespoons finely julienned fresh mint, a couple ounces of crumbled feta cheese, and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. Grind black pepper over the top and serve immediately.
- Go slow with Slow Roasted Tomatoes.
When you’ve got way more tomatoes than you can eat before they spoil, the best thing to do is slow roast them in a warm oven, then you can divide them into meal-sized servings in resealable plastic bags and pop them in the freezer to save for the inevitable long, cold season devoid of good tomatoes. Your winter self will thank you! Halve your tomatoes, arrange them cut-side up on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and then roast in a 200-degree oven for about 8 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted baguette rounds and cheese, or puree into a sauce for pasta or pizza.