Year after year, my husband “complains” that we plant too many tomatoes. But year after year I point out that there is no such thing as too many tomatoes.
It’s such a short season and a vine tomato is one of the greatest culinary gifts. First, there’s the most basic of summer fun: pulling a ripe tomato straight from the vine into your mouth and letting the sweet, sun-warmed juices roll off your T-shirt, because it’s August and who cares? Then there’s the very simple summer treat: a tomato sandwich (lightly toasted white bread, a layer of mayonnaise, fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper) followed by a month of ice-cold tomato-based gazpacho, hot tomato soup, salads, roasted tomato sauce, pasta sauces, roasted fish with tomatoes, baked seafood with tomatoes, tomato pies, galettes and crostadas. Do you understand my point? Obviously there is no such thing as too many tomatoes.
My most prized end of harvest recipe is roasted tomato sauce.
I come with some friends and clean the canning equipment, roasting all these garden tomatoes with garlic, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil in a hot oven (early in the morning or on that rare cool August or September day), then place the sweet sauce in canning jars for a whole winter of delicious meals. I love roasting cherry tomatoes – red, yellow, orange, round, oblong – in a low oven swimming in an olive oil bath with lots of fresh herbs and using the tender tomatoes all week for pizza toppings, salads and the base of a simple sauce or toppings for grilled fish or meat.
And then there’s an open-faced sandwich called a tartine, which lays thin slices of tomato with ripe peaches on a spiced lemon-ricotta mixture on a toasted crusty baguette. And my latest recipe: tomato tonnato. You may have heard of it vitello tonnato, a classic dish of thinly sliced veal on a sauce made from tuna from the northeastern region of Piedmont. I’m reimagining here with the season’s ripest tomatoes instead of meat.
Look for a variety of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes at farmers’ markets and markets that buy their tomatoes from local farmers. You may come across the term: heirloom tomato, which simply indicates that the variety of seeds used to grow the fruit is older and passed down from generation to generation. These “older” seed varieties—unlike mass-bought supermarket tomatoes that all look the same but offer very little flavor—are valued more for their flavor than for their perfect, uniform appearance. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes and while they are more expensive, they are worth seeking out for their incredible juiciness and flavor profiles.
As soon as you have the tomatoes at home, you want to store them unrefrigerated, steal down. Ripen tomatoes in a single layer; if you stack them on top of each other, they are more likely to rot. According to a piece by Sarah Kaplan in the Washington Post, the cooler refrigerator temperature can slow the ripening process, but it also disrupts the chemical compounds that give tomatoes their flavor.
Candied cherry tomatoes
The French word candied means “to keep”. In this case, ripe cherry tomatoes are roasted very slowly in a “bath” of olive oil with fresh basil, garlic, salt and pepper. The tomatoes keep for more than a week covered and refrigerated and can be used on pasta (see below), on fish, chicken and vegetable dishes, salads or simply served on toast or crackers. And the tomato oil is ideal for salad dressings, tossed with pasta or drizzled with cooked fish and seafood.
- 1 ½ pounds ripe cherry tomatoes, red, orange, and yellow if possible
- 1 cup olive oil
- ¼ cup basil leaves, very coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- In a large gratin dish or rimmed baking dish, toss all ingredients.
- Roast on the center rack for 40 to 55 minutes, or until the tomatoes are almost bursting and quite tender and the oil is sizzling gently.
- Remove from the oven.
- Let cool and store in a covered container or Mason jar in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Linguine with candied cherry tomato, basil, pine nuts and arugula
One of my favorite ways to use candied cherry tomatoes is in this super quick easy pasta dish.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or bucatini
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomato candiedrecipe above
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced very thin
- ¼ cup pine nuts, optional
- ½ cup arugula
- About ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Add the pasta and cook, according to the instructions, depending on the type of pasta you choose, or until al dente, or not thoroughly soft. draining.
- Place the drained pasta in a large serving bowl or bowl. Top with the cherry tomato candied (and a few tablespoons of oil), the basil, pine nuts and toss gently. Garnish with the arugula leaves and Parmesan cheese. Serve hot.
Think of this dish as a deconstructed tomato and tuna sandwich. This is my riff on the Italian classic, vitello tonnato, in which slices of rare veal are served with a tuna sauce. In this version I use ripe garden tomatoes instead of meat. The tuna sauce is whirled in a food processor or blender in a few minutes, then topped with the thinly sliced tomatoes – the more varieties you use, the better. Serve with a warm baguette or crusty bread.
The tuna sauce:
- A 3 ounce can of tuna in olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons whipped cream
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
- 1 to 2 anchovy fillets, optional
- 1 tablespoon canned or bottled anchovy oil, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
The tomatoes and garnish:
- 3 large ripe tomatoes, or 2 tomatoes and 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved. If possible, use yellow and red tomatoes, very thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons basil leaves, leave whole if small or roughly chopped or sliced if large
- Nasturtium or other edible flowers, optional
- Make the sauce: In a food processor or blender, grind the tuna (as well as any olive oil in the can) with the garlic.
- Add the mayonnaise, cream, capers, lemon juice, anchovies and optional anchovy oil, olive oil and pepper. Turn until almost a smooth sauce.
- Place in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- To serve: With a soft spatula or the back of a round kitchen spoon, spread the tuna sauce on a medium serving dish, arrange the tomatoes on top and garnish with the basil and edible flowers.
Heirloom tomato, peach and spiced lemon ricotta tartine
tartine is the French word for an open-faced sandwich. In this easy summer recipe, cut a baguette into 3- to 4-inch pieces, cut them in half and toast the loaf lightly with olive oil, then top with a herb and lemon-scented ricotta. The topping: thin slices of red, yellow and orange tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and ripe summer peaches. Sprinkle the tartine with fresh basil and, if you like, a very small drizzle of honey to increase the sweetness of the tomatoes and peaches. Serve for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner with a summer salad.
Serves 4 to 8.
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, chives, thyme, etc. (the more varieties, the better)
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 crusty French-style baguette, or 4 large pieces of sliced crusty bread
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, or 8 to 12 cherry tomatoes, red, yellow, or orange, thinly sliced (may need to be halved depending on the width of your loaf)
- 1 large or 2 small ripe peaches, sliced very thin
- About 1 ½ tablespoons honey, optional
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced very thinly or if small leaves are kept whole
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons oil, herbs, lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the toasts: Cut the baguette into 4 equal pieces. Cut each piece in half. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the baguette slices, cut side down (crust side up), and toast for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
- To assemble: place the toasted baguette slices on a serving platter, cut side up. Divide the ricotta mixture over the slices and spread it out in a thin layer. Top with the tomatoes, alternating with the peach slices. Sprinkle the top with the basil and optionally a drizzle of honey. Season with salt and pepper.
More Favorite Tomato Recipes:
- Click here for recipes to make puttanesca sauce, tomato and plum salad, tomato salad with burrata, tomato and corn pie.
- Click here for a recipe to make gazpacho.
- Click here for recipes to make watermelon and tomato salad, bluefish with tomatoes, white beans with tomatoes, and a guide to tomatoes.
- Click here for a recipe for shakshuka with cherry tomatoes.