The long hot days of summer yield many things: tall golden grasses sprawling across our hills, crowded beaches where locals flock to escape the inland heat, and in the garden, more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at. After waiting patiently for the past several weeks, the anticipated reward of this juicy, sun-ripened favorite is at hand–ready to be plucked from the vine in all its glory.
I wait all year for these few precious weeks of tomato harvest, resolving to make the most of the season by cooking up enough fresh sauce to last me until next summer. Personally, I can’t buy supermarket tomatoes. Bred commercially to hold up over long distance shipping, these tasteless fruit are pure disappointment compared to summer’s fresh crop. One might as well throw money down the drain!
Plus, there are so many varieties to choose from. Along with mainstream favorites like Beefsteak, Early Girl, and Roma, growers have popularized lesser-known heritage varieties presenting consumers with an abundance of offerings. With an estimated 3,000+ heirloom tomatoes in cultivation, there is literally a tomato to suit every palate.
If you’ve visited a local farmers’ market recently, you know what I’m talking about. You’re likely to find Brandywines, Japanese Black Trifele, Sun Gold, Sweet 100’s, Green Zebra, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Black Cherry, Pineapple, San Marzano, Early Girl, Yellow Pear. . .the list goes on, and on! The vendor booths are as much a feast for the eyes as they are the senses–bursting with specimens in a rainbow of colors: pink, gold, crimson, black, green, yellow, brown, variegated, and of course, red.
This year my garden has Juliette, Early Girl, and Sweet 100 Cherry in the mix. Finding creative and tasty ways to use the abundant harvest is always a challenge so if your vines, like mine, are straining under the weight of ripened tomatoes, try these three tried and true recipes for making the most of the season’s bounty.
Tuscan Tomato and Egg Breakfast Skillet
*Who says tomatoes aren’t for breakfast!
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded Italian Blend cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, slivered
- Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and bacon (if using), and sauté until lightly brown. Drain off any excess fat.
- Add chopped tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until they have released their juices, about 4-5 minutes.
- Make 4 wells in the tomato mixture with a spoon and crack an egg into each well. Cover the pan with a glass lid, and simmer until egg whites are firm and yolks are starting to set (about 2 minutes).
- Remove lid, sprinkle with cheese, and cover again to melt. Sprinkle with fresh basil and scoop onto individual plates. Serve with good quality sliced rustic toast. Delicious!
Sliced Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata, Pesto & Balsamic Vinegar (serves 4-6)
4-5 large Heirloom Variety Tomatoes, mixed or the same, sliced
8 oz. container fresh Burrata Cheese, available at Trader Joes, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh pesto
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
good quality balsamic vinegar for drizzling
fresh basil leaves for garnish
1. Arrange sliced tomatoes on a platter or individual plates in a fan pattern with slices of
Burrata between each slice.
2. In a small juice glass, mix fresh pesto with extra virgin olive oil, stirring with a spoon.
3. Drizzle over tomato/cheese slices, followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
4. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.
Karen’s Tomato Pie (serves 8)
*My dear friend and local chef, Susan Lustenberger of White Rose Ranch, makes a killer version of this dish. She inspired me to experiment, and this recipe is the result.
1 single pie crust (frozen or homemade)
1/2 large sweet onion, sliced
4 large heirloom tomatoes (single or mixed varieties), sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 cups grated cheese of choice (mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, asiago) or a combination thereof.
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 350. Lay pie crust in a 9″ pie place, pricking the bottom and sides with a fork to prevent bubbles. Pre-bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
2. Lightly salt sliced tomatoes and allow to drain in a colander for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry to remove excess moisture.
3. While tomatoes are draining, sauté sliced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
4. Mix 2 cups grated cheeses, mayonnaise, garlic, and a couple grinds of black pepper.
5. Layer ingredients in two layers in the baked pie shell as follows: tomatoes, basil, onion, and cheese/mayonnaise mixture.
6. Finish by sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top of the cheese/mayo combination.
7. Bake on center rack of oven until browned and bubbly–approximately 40-45 minutes.
8. Remove, cool before slicing, and enjoy!