Don’t know what to do with the bounty of tomatoes you’re getting from your garden or can’t resist buying at farmers’ markets? Let us help! We consulted with three experts and gathered some ideas for enjoying them fresh or cooked and storing them for winter use.
Gazpacho is Cathy Werle’s go-to for the quintessential summer soup. As the primary lunch chef at The Margarita at Pine Creek, she has been in charge of the rotating seasonal soup selections since starting there in 1999. Gazpacho, which she makes, is on the lunch menu all summer.
The recipe originated with Pati Burleson, owner of The Margarita, but has been “tweaked” over the years,” Werle said.
“It’s a favorite of all of ours, especially on these hot summer days,” she said. “The soup is great served with garlic-oil- toasted croutons, avocado and lemon slices. For an entree, we like to top with some crab meat or grilled shrimp. We occasionally puree the leftovers for a base for bloody marys. It’s so good with a little horseradish and extra Tabasco.”
She also has recommendations for green tomatoes and for heirloom tomatoes grown by local farmers and sold at the Colorado Farm and Art Market.
“We love our fried green tomatoes,” she said. “But we can’t wait to bite into a Cherokee purple grown at Larga Vista Ranch or the Brandywine tomatoes from New Roots Farm. They are delicious as they are, sliced and enjoyed.”
Cortney Smith, co-owner with David Cook of Gather Food Studio cooking school, loves fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes too.
“They tend to be juicier and sweeter this way and perfect for eating in a delicious panzanella or caprese salad,” she said. “I have a hard time resisting a sun-ripened, still warm sweet tomato right off of the vine.”
Are panzanella and caprese salads new to you? We can thank Italians for these classic summer treats. Panzanella is a bread salad — you toss day-old bread with juicy tomatoes, garlic and herbs and let it set, allowing the flavors to meld into a delicious side dish.
The caprese consists of simple layers of sliced fresh tomatoes alternating with slices of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves (all three representing the Italian flag colors). They’re arranged on plates shingle-style and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a shower of sea salt. Nothing could be easier, more elegant or scrumptious. You can raise the ante by using various shades of colorful heirloom tomatoes.
An old favorite, the BLT, gets a fresh tip, thanks to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio podcast, co-hosted by Kimball and Sara Moulton, cookbook author and PBS television show host of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” On a recent show, a caller asked if they had a twist for improving the sandwich.
Kimball balked at first, suggesting it was “like asking how to improve apple pie — you can’t.” But then he said. “You could add smoked paprika to the mayo or use arugula instead of lettuce. But don’t mess with the bread. It must be white bread.”
Moulton had another suggestion. “About 20 minutes before making the sandwich, cut tomatoes into about 1/3-inch slices. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt on both sides. Place them on a cooling rack or paper towel. After 20 minutes, pat the slices dry. They will taste so much more tomato-y.”
We gave this a try and loved the pumped-up flavor. The salt brightens the natural sweetness of tomatoes.
Moulton offered tips for enhancing mayo.
“Use homemade mayonnaise. Or I like Hellman’s. If you use Hellman’s, add a little fresh lemon juice because Hellmans is on the sweet side,” she said. “Throw it into a blender with a ton of fresh basil leaves and puree it. The basil leaves get crushed and release a ton of flavor. I really love this on a BLT.”
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