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Celebrate Summer Tomatoes With New Recipes And Old Favorites

White Beans With Tomatoes, Peppers And Summer Herbs (Kathy Gunst)
White Beans With Tomatoes, Peppers And Summer Herbs (Kathy Gunst)

I’ve been the resident chef for Here & Now for more than 20 years. And, in all those years, the food I’ve covered more than any other is tomatoes.

Year after year, come August and early September, I’ve done a segment that tries to inspire cooks to use tomatoes (whether from your own garden or local farmers market) in creative ways.

I’ve created recipes for sauces, sandwiches, pasta dishes, salsa, salads, cold or hot soup, and more. If you love this summer fruit/vegetable and look forward to this time of year the way I do, you know there are endless ways to use summer tomatoes.

My favorite recipe of all time is my Roasted Tomato Sauce. Every year I gather all my garden tomatoes, buy box loads of what’s called “seconds” (the slightly bruised or not fully perfect fruit that is always less expensive than the perfect ones) and make a simple soul-satisfying roasted sauce.

Here are a few tomato tips, as well as three new tomato recipes and links to some old favorites.

What’s an heirloom tomato?

When shopping for tomatoes you might see the term heirloom. This refers to a variety of seeds that dates back at least 50 years — and often up to a century. These are seed varieties that are prized for their flavor (over uniform looks). They come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes. They are well worth seeking out.

What’s the best way to keep tomatoes?

Store them stem side down to protect tomatoes from rotting. The stem side is stronger and sturdier than the bottom of the fruit. Let tomatoes ripen on a shelf, in a single layer to prevent rotting. And, do not store tomatoes in the refrigerator, but at room temperature. I know it might seem counter-intuitive to keep tomatoes out on the window sill but refrigeration will stifle or “kill” the flavor. According to a piece by science reporter Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post, “Keeping tomatoes at low temperatures slows down the ripening process and prevents them from rotting, but it also interferes with chemical compounds that give tomatoes their taste.”

A note: Whenever possible, I like to use a variety of tomatoes in summer dishes. Red, yellow, striped, cherry tomatoes not only look beautiful mixed together but each adds its own level of acidity, texture, flavor and color.

Watermelon And Tomato Salad

A friend was telling me about a watermelon-tomato gazpacho she made the other day. I was intrigued. But I wasn’t in the mood for soup. I decided to deconstruct the idea of a watermelon-tomato gazpacho by layering slices of sweet watermelon with slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, slices of raw tomatoes, cucumber, and scallions. A thoroughly refreshing colorful salad ideal for a hot summer day.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ small watermelon, cut off the rind and into 1-inch slices, about 2 cups
  • 1 ripe tomato, red or yellow, thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped, white and green sections
  • 1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Place the cherry tomatoes in a small ovenproof skillet and drizzle the oil, salt and pepper on top. Gently stir. Roast on the middle shelf for 30 minutes; the skins should be almost bursting. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. Arrange the watermelon slices on a serving platter. Top with the roasted cherry tomatoes and the oil from the bottom of the skillet. Top with the sliced raw tomato, cucumbers, scallions; drizzle on the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted Bluefish With Tomatoes, Onions And Basil With A Lemon-Panko Topping

This simple fish dish will work with any firm, slightly oily fish, like cod, red snapper, striped bass, etc.

Serves 2 to 3.

Ingredients

  • About 1 pound bluefish filet, or other slightly oily firm fish
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 small yellow or red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, very thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup panko or breadcrumbs *
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Lemon wedges for serving


*Panko are a Japanese type of breadcrumbs that are prized for their light, airy texture. You can easily substitute regular breadcrumbs.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place the fish in the center of a rimmed baking sheet or shallow gratin dish. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil on top of the fish so it drips down the sides and coats the pan. Sprinkle the fish with salt and pepper and insert the garlic slices into the flesh of the fish. Arrange the tomato slices, onion slices, and the basil, alternating them on top of the fish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Surround the fish with the cherry tomatoes and drizzle the fish with the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil.
  3. In a small bowl mix the panko (or breadcrumbs) and the lemon zest and set aside.
  4. Roast on the middle shelf for 15 minutes. Remove and preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the top of the fish with the lemon and panko (or breadcrumb) mixture and spoon any juices from the bottom of the pan on top. Place under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, and serve hot with lemon wedges on the side.

White Beans With Tomatoes, Peppers And Summer Herbs

Is this a quick, simple summer soup, a warm rustic main course or a salad? This dish can be any of those — depending on the way you look at it.

Tomatoes are used in two different ways here: Ripe raw tomato is grated to create an instant base for the sauce. (This is a technique I first learned in Spain when learning to make paella and pan con tomate or tomato toast. You simply use the largest holes on a cheese grater.) And then pieces of chopped raw tomato are added along with basil, parsley, sweet pepper to tender, buttery white beans.

Look for good-quality canned white beans for this recipe. You can use any type of cooked canned or bottled white bean you find in your local grocery store. I have recently discovered Jovial Organic cannellini beans. Harvested from small family farms in the Piedmont region of Italy, these beans are superb.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow or red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small red, green, or yellow sweet pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, grated on the largest hole on a cheese grater
  • One 13 or 15-ounce can white cannellini beans, drained, and reserve 2 tablespoons of the liquid, rinse the beans and drain again


Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 4 minutes. Add half the basil and parsley and the grated tomato (be sure to add all the juices) and cook, stirring, for another 4 minutes. Stir in the pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the raw chopped tomato and the beans with the 2 tablespoons of reserved bean liquid. Stir in the remaining basil and parsley and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning adding more salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot or cold, drizzled with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil.

Other Tomato-Forward Recipes

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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