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-ripened tomato is one of the greatest culinary gifts. First, there’s the most basic summer pleasure: pulling a ripe tomato straight from the vine into your mouth, and letting the sweet, sun-warmed juices roll down your T-shirt because it’s August and who cares? Then there’s the utterly simple summer treat: a tomato sandwich (lightly toasted white bread, a slathering of mayonnaise, fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper) followed by a month of icy cold tomato-based gazpacho, hot tomato soup, salads, roasted tomato sauce, pasta sauces, roast fish with tomatoes, sauteed seafood with tomatoes, tomato pies, galettes and crostadas. You get my point? Clearly, there is no such thing as too many tomatoes.
My most prized end-of-the-harvest recipe is roasted tomato sauce.
I get together with a few friends and clean the canning equipment, roast all those 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) and then place the sweet sauce in canning jars for an entire winter of great 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 use the tender tomatoes all week for pizza toppings, salads, and the basis of a simple sauce or toppings for grilled fish or meat.
And then there’s an open-faced sandwich, called a tartine, that layers thin slices of tomatoes with ripe peaches on an herbed-lemon ricotta mixture on top of a toasted crunchy baguette. And my newest recipe: tomato tonnato. You may have heard of vitello tonnato, a classic dish of thinly sliced veal on a sauce made from tuna fish that hails from the north-eastern region of Piedmont. I reimagine here using the season’s ripest tomatoes instead of meat.
Look for a variety of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes at farmer’s markets and markets that buy their tomatoes from local farmers. You may encounter the term heirloom tomato, which simply indicates that the variety of seeds used to grow the fruit is older and has been passed down from generation to generation. These “older” seed varieties — unlike mass-procured supermarket tomatoes who all look the same but offer very little flavor — are prized for their flavor more than perfect, uniform looks. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes and, although more expensive, are well worth seeking out for their incredible juiciness and flavor profiles.
Once you get the tomatoes home you want to store them unrefrigerated, stem side down. Let tomatoes ripen 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 may slow down the ripening process but it also “interferes with chemical compounds that give tomatoes their taste.”
Cherry tomato confit
The French word confit means “preserve.” In this case, ripe cherry tomatoes are very slowly roasted in a “bath” of olive oil with fresh basil, garlic, salt and pepper. The tomatoes will keep for over a week covered and refrigerated and can be used on pasta (see below), to top 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 over cooked fish and seafood.
- 1 ½ pound ripe cherry tomatoes, red, orange and yellow if possible
- 1 cup olive oil
- ¼ cup basil leaves, very coarsely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- In a large gratin dish or baking dish with edges, toss all the ingredients.
- Roast on the middle shelf for 40 to 55 minutes, or until the tomatoes are almost bursting and quite soft and the oil is gently sizzling.
- 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 cherry tomato confit, basil, pine nuts and arugula
One of my favorite ways to use cherry tomato confit is in this super-quick simple pasta dish.
Serves 2 to 4.
- 1 pound spaghetti, linguine or bucatini
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomato confit, recipe above
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, very thinly sliced
- ¼ cup pine nuts, optional
- ½ cup arugula
- About ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Add the pasta and cook, according to instructions depending on the type of pasta you choose, or until al dente, or not thoroughly soft. Drain.
- Place the drained pasta into a large serving bowl or platter. Top with the cherry tomato confit (and several tablespoons of the oil), the basil, pine nuts and toss gently. Top with the arugula leaves and Parmesan. Serve hot.
Think of this dish as a deconstructed tomato and tuna fish sandwich. This is my riff on the Italian classic, vitello tonnato, in which slices of rare veal are served over a tuna sauce. In this version, I use ripe garden tomatoes instead of meat. The tuna sauce is whirled up in a food processor or blender in minutes and 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:
- One 3-ounce can tuna in olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
- 1 to 2 anchovy filets, optional
- 1 tablespoon anchovy oil from the tin or bottle, 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 cut in half. Use yellow and red tomatoes if you can, very thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 tablespoon basil leaves, left whole if small or coarsely chopped or sliced if large
- Nasturtium or other edible flowers, optional
- Make the sauce: In a food processor or blender, whirl the tuna (as well as all the olive oil in the can) with the garlic.
- Add the mayonnaise, cream, capers, lemon juice, anchovies and anchovy oil if using, olive oil and pepper. Whirl until it’s almost a smooth sauce.
- Place in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
- To serve: Using a soft spatula or the back of a round kitchen spoon, smear the tuna sauce on a medium platter, Arrange the tomatoes on top and decorate with the basil and edible flowers.
Heirloom tomato, peach and herbed-lemon ricotta tartine
Tartine is the French word for an open-faced sandwich. In this simple summertime recipe, you cut a baguette into 3 to 4-inch pieces, cut in half and lightly toast the bread with olive oil, then spread it with an herb and lemon-scented ricotta. The topping: thin slices of red, yellow and orange tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and ripe summer peaches. Top the tartine with fresh basil and, if you like, a very small drizzle of honey to heighten 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 finely chopped herbs, like basil, parsley, chives, thyme, etc (the more varieties the better)
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 French-style crusty baguette, or 4 large pieces of sliced crusty bread
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, or 8 to 12 cherry tomatoes, red, yellow and or orange, thinly sliced (they may need to be cut in half depending on the width of your bread)
- 1 large or 2 small ripe peaches, very thinly sliced
- About 1 ½ tablespoon honey, optional
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, very thinly sliced or if small leaves kept whole
- In a small bowl mix the ricotta, 2 tablespoons of the oil, herbs, lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
- Prepare the toasts: Cut the baguette into 4 equal-sized pieces. Cut each piece in half. In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over moderately 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 plate, cut side up. Divide the ricotta mixture between the slices spreading it out in a thin layer. Top with the tomatoes, alternating with the peach slices. Sprinkle the top with the basil and a drizzle of honey, if you like. Season with salt and pepper.
More favorite tomato recipes:
- Click here for recipes to make a puttanesca sauce, tomato and plum salad, tomato salad with burrata, tomato and corn tart.
- 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.