Thursday, August 12, 2010

12 Ways to Enjoy Summer Tomatoes

I love summer tomatoes - there's just nothing like them - and while we southerners would all like to lay claim to our states having the best of the best of them, in my little ole humble opinion, any local tomato freshly plucked from a garden is the best!

12 Ways to Enjoy Summer Tomatoes

I do always lament the passing of summer tomatoes because while tomatoes are available to us the rest of the year, they just have no taste in comparison. They aren't local of course, so they have to travel from far away, they are picked early before they are ripe and then are often shot with things like nitrogen to turn them red and make them appear pretty. While they may look nice on the outside, we all know the insides often reveal a mealy texture and they are often lacking in anything remotely tasting like the tomatoes we are accustomed to out of our own backyards or local markets.

Always store tomatoes at room temperature until they are fully ripe. If you refrigerate them before they are fully ripe, the cold temperature hampers the continuation of ripening and that is what produces that mealy texture. Once they are ripe however, you can then refrigerate them to get a few more days out of them, and of course, once you have cut into one, refrigerate any leftovers and use those quickly for best quality.

Aren't those tomatoes up there just gorgeous? That is an unaltered photo, of beautiful tomatoes, that I picked right out of my own backyard garden. By the way,  my favorite gadget to have around the house for peeling soft skin fruits like peaches and tomatoes, is this soft skin peeler. If you love making fresh pasta sauces but don't like the hassle of boiling and peeling the tomatoes you really want this tool. It truly does what it says, works fantastic, makes a super easy job of peeling the skins, and is my new best friend in the kitchen this time of year. It works equally great on those peaches that are starting to come in too!

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy those fresh, local or homegrown tomatoes ... enjoy them while they last!

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The First Tomato of the Season

I have a ritual for the first tomato of the season out of my garden. I slice it. Douse it with some kosher salt and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, put a dab of mayo - preferably Duke's - on the side, and savor it slowly, bite by lovely bite. While that "first tomato" is long past, this side dish is still one of the best ways to enjoy fresh garden tomatoes. Simple and delicious.

The Classic Tomato Sandwich

Now I do love good whole wheat bread, don't get me wrong, but in my opinion the classic southern tomato sandwich is made on white bread and with nothing else but thick slices of dripping garden fresh tomatoes, salt and pepper and plenty of mayo. Oh, and lots of napkins.

The Classic BLT

Made on either white or wheat toasted bread with thick slices of garden fresh summer tomatoes, crispy slices of bacon, lettuce, salt and pepper and again, plenty of mayo.

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Vidalia Onion

This is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Good ole unpretentious sliced American cheese, and sandwiched between that cheese, sliced garden fresh summer tomatoes and very thin slices of Vidalia onion, buttered bread, toasted in a pan on the stovetop. White or wheat bread works here. Yum.

Fried Egg BLT

When I worked in my past life at the law firm, this was one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches to get at the Triplett-Day Drugstore next door. White or wheat works here.  Hey did y'all know that little ole drugstore and it's still-in-existence-soda-fountain made it into July/August 2010 issue of Food Network Magazine in the State by State Best Breakfasts feature? Yep, sure did!  Not for this sandwich, but for their simple beignets.

The Classic Turkey Club Sandwich

A diner food favorite - take that BLT and add some fresh, sliced turkey breast and an extra slice of toast sandwiched between the layers. Yum.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Whirl 'em up for a great sauce for dipping, for pasta or rice, in soup, or pizza. Keep it chunky for bruschetta, or add them whole to a Mason jar topped with extra olive oil for sandwiches or snacking!

Garden Fresh Tomato Quiche with Bacon

A trio of fresh from the garden tomatoes, basil rolled and cut into thin chiffonade ribbons, and freshly grated fresh mozzarella cheese - like an Insalata Caprese in a pie - the tomatoes really shine with this one!

Insalata Caprese

Speaking of which - what could be more classic? Slices of tomato, wedged between slices of fresh mozzarella and whole basil leaves, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Simple. Delicious.

Panzanella Salad on Romaine

Panzanella is basically a "use it up" vegetable and bread salad that highlights tomatoes. While it's not traditional to serve it over romaine, that's how I like it, so that's what I do! For a real southern touch, try this salad with cornbread croutons. Simply make the homemade crouton recipe but use day old cornbread that is cubed and toasted.

Fire 'n Ice Salad

Another favorite of mine and a great way to showcase those garden fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers too! Spicy, sweet and sour all at once and delicious.

Simple Summer Salad

Toss those garden fresh cucumbers and tomatoes with some red onion and homemade or commercial Italian dressing. Simple and so good.

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What's your favorite way to enjoy those gorgeous backyard tomatoes?

Posted by on September 11, 2012
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