It’s August — time for tomatoes! Fragrant, juicy, warmed by the late afternoon sun, in-season, local tomatoes straight off the vine are completely different from those winter fruit shipped across the continent. Known as pomid’oro, or “golden apple,” in Italy and pomme d’amour, or “the Apple of Love,” in France, in Yugoslavia they were aptly named paradisa, or “fruit of paradise.”
From small cherry tomatoes to large ones, tomatoes come in many sizes and colors. They are plentiful now at farmers’ markets and local farm stands.
This western-hemisphere fruit was first cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico and is known for its health benefits, especially vitamin C, lutein and lycopene. With only 35 calories in a medium tomato, they also provide fiber, vitamins A and B, potassium, iron and phosphorus.
When tomatoes arrived in Europe, they quickly became popular in Italy, Spain and France. Today they’re best known in Italian cuisine, especially as pasta and pizza sauce.
Fresh tomatoes are best served raw, in a myriad of sandwiches and in many types of salads. They are great in fresh salsa. They go well with cucumbers, basil, scallions or corn. They can be marinated in vinegars. I love eating them fresh in summer.
Tomato salads are a summer favorite. Mix them with cucumbers, yogurt and chives, or with arugula and pasta in a light vinaigrette. Or with corn, feta and mint. Or a Caesar salad with romaine lettuce and fresh cherry tomatoes.
Tomato sandwiches are another summer treat. Toasted whole-wheat bread with bacon, mayonnaise, lettuce and sliced tomato is the classic BLT. I like them with bread, sprinkled with a little salt and some sliced sweet onion or feta.
They can also be added to cooked dishes, and pair well with pasta, zucchini, eggplant and fresh beans. Try a one-pot orzo with corn, zucchini and tomatoes. You can serve it warm or cold as a salad.
Vine-ripened tomatoes in season are so delicious that they need little tampering. There are innumerable ways to use them this time of year. What are your favorites?
Red and Yellow Tomato Salad
Several arugula leaves
1 red tomato
1 yellow tomato
Salt & pepper
1 or 2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 or 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
In salad bowl, arrange arugula leaves on sides and bottom. Add sliced tomatoes and arrange on top. Sprinkle with salt & pepper; drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on red onion and crumbled feta.
Serves 1 or 2.
Tomato and Cheese Sandwich
1 slice sturdy sourdough bread, about 1/2″ thick
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large tomato
1 clove garlic
Brush bread with olive oil and rub with garlic. Toast until golden.
Place sliced or chopped tomatoes and basil leaves on top. Top with cheese and toast until cheese melts.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at www.yvonafast.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org