5 Easy Ways to Turn Cherry Tomatoes into Summer Appetizers

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Along with milk and eggs, cherry tomatoes have a permanent spot on my shoppig list. For one, my kid eats them by the fistful. For two, I snack on them constantly while I cook. And for three, they act as a secret weapon when a dish needs a little extra color or flavor boost — because, in case you didn’t know, tomatoes are bursting with natural umami.

But as these juicy globes (as well as summertime gatherings) come into peak season, cherry tomatoes have also become my go-to for last-minute parties and appetizers. And hopefully, after you try these non-crudité treats, you’ll start putting cherry tomatoes on your permanent shopping list, too.

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Tomato Ceviche

Embrace summer with ceviche. Traditionally, this dish includes thinly cut or cubed raw fish, which lounges in a pool of citrus juice, often accompanied by salsa-esque ingredients, like cilantro, red and green onion, and jalapeño. But for something quick and equally bright, simply skip the fish and use sliced cherry tomatoes instead. Then use your favorite ceviche recipe for inspiration to dress the rest of the dish. Serve with tortilla chips or in individual glasses with forks.

Tomato and Fruit Bruschetta

Miles Kingston once said, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. But wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” And I agree wholeheartedly. But just because you should think twice about making a tomato ambrosia, doesn’t mean fruit and tomatoes can’t successfully complement each other. So Mr. Kingston, let me add, that foolishness is overlooking the flavor possibilities of a tomato and fruit bruschetta.

To make this quick balancing act of sweet and savory flavors, soak sliced summer fruit (i.e., strawberries, figs, peaches) with halved cherry tomatoes, and some balsamic vinegar to taste. Place the mixture on top of plain baguette slices (or those slathered with Burrata cheese) and sprinkle with fresh basil.

(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Grilled Tomato Salad Skewers

When you heat the grill for dinner, make sure to toss on salad-inspired tomato skewers, too. Keep it simple with just whole cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Add in some cubed bread and red onions for a panzanella-like kebob. Go BLT with some romaine hearts and cubed pancetta. Or build a melt-free caprese with hard halloumi or paneer. Then pair with appropriate dressings (Italian, ranch, balsamic vinaigrette) for dipping or drizzling.

(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Cheesy Roasted Tomato Dip

As mentioned before, tomatoes are dripping with natural umami — the effect of which you can multiply with heat and other umami-filled foods. So when you want a quick and addictive dish for your next party, toss those cherry tomatoes with some cheese (also a source of umami) and throw it in the oven.

To make Cheesy Roasted Tomato Dip, start by sautéing minced garlic and chopped onion in an oven-proof skillet or small Dutch oven. Add the tomatoes and stir. Then bake in a 425°F oven until the tomatoes begin to soften and wrinkle (and maybe even pop a little), about 15 minutes. Stir in some herbs and cream cheese. Sprinkle the top with a mix of parmesan and Swiss or mozzarella, and then continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 15 more minutes.

A hot 2 seconds under the broiler to brown the cheese on top never hurts (just don’t let it burn!). Serve warm with chips. And of course, don’t forget to add your own personal flair. Like mixing in some bacon, breadcrumbs, or even, hell, a vegetable like artichoke hearts or shaved zucchini.

(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Baked Pizza Pasta Nests

When you don’t have prepared pizza dough or the time to make it, use cooked pasta instead for mini baked pizza nests. Simply toss the cooked pasta in some olive oil and then build your “nest” by layering it on the bottom and sides of the muffin tin. Bake at 400F for about 12 to 15 minutes, until the pasta is golden in color and crispy. Depending on what you have available, top the pasta nest with pizza toppings — like cooked ground meat, sliced cherry tomatoes, basil, spinach, and most definitely cheese (because this holds it all together). Bake again until the cheese melts, about 5 more minutes. Serve warm with plenty of napkins.