There's a whole lot to love about summer eating, and while it's hard to pick a favorite, I'd argue that tomatoes are pretty high up there. I take a hard pass on the pale, mealy versions available at the supermarket year-round and instead wait to bite into the absolute best for just a few short months in the summer. I'm not alone in this feeling — 10 smart, seasoned home cooks agree that nothing beats the juicy sweetness of summer tomatoes. Here are their favorite ways to enjoy them.
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1. Tomatoes on Toast
When I was a kid, I used to eat beefsteak tomatoes like they were apples — one large (and messy) bite at a time. I like to think I'm a bit more sophisticated now, but my favorite way to eat tomatoes at the height of the season remains in their fresh and raw form. There's nothing better than slices of ripe heirloom tomatoes drizzled with a high-quality olive oil and topped with flaky salt — maybe on top of a thick, hearty slice of toasted sourdough bread if I have any on hand.
2. Tomatoes and Cottage Cheese
A scoop of cottage cheese, one tomato sliced, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper — it kind of sounds like a sad diet snack, but it's not! My dad has always been obsessed with the combination, and I just grew up eating it. It feels a little less indulgent than eating straight-up mozzarella or burrata and is sort of the lazy/cheap way to eat caprese.
3. Tomato Salsa
I feel like tomato season comes in two distinct parts. There's the early part of the season, when tomatoes still feel precious and rare. I slice those tomatoes with a near-ceremonial reverence, salt them generously, and arrange them on slices of crusty toast. Once we transition into the second part of the season (also know as the glut), when tomatoes threaten to take over my every inch of my dining table, I start making batches of salsa for the fridge. Built a couple times a week into a quart jar, the resulting salsa becomes our house condiment and is spooned on eggs, tacos, or directly into an open mouth.
4. No-Cook Tomato Sauce
Good summer tomatoes don't need to be cooked, and they're so juicy they basically create their own pasta sauce. I think any no-cook pasta sauces are fabulous. My mother-in-law does one with brie cheese, basil, tomatoes, and garlic!
5. Tomato Water Cocktails
When it comes to tomatoes, I like to have it all, so every year I put up as many jars of crushed tomatoes as I can stand. While I work, I strain the seeds and make tomato water cocktails. Don't let the (lack of) color fool you – clear tomato water pops with that delicious tomato flavor and acidity.
6. Bruschetta Benedict
I apply the Hippocratic Oath to perfectly ripe summer tomatoes: First, do no harm. That means keep it simple and don't overpower the tomatoes with a ton of extra stuff. My go-to recipe this year has been a simple bruschetta Benedict with chopped tomatoes, basil, sturdy garlic toast, and a perfectly poached egg. Skip the heavy hollandaise sauce and instead drizzle with a little olive oil to bring out the tomato flavor. YUM!
7. Tomato Tortellini
We've been making a recipe from Marley Spoon on repeat; we had it in the meal kit once and now recreate it on our own. It's cheese tortellini with a fresh tomato salsa — just chopped tomatoes, salt, and a little olive oil — plus some creamy spinach (wilted spinach cooked with cream cheese and pasta water). I think they call it an easy tortellini Florentine. So fast, fresh, and easy and two vegetables in one dish — a win since convincing my kids to eat just one vegetable is a struggle.
8. Tomato Sandwich
Sliced summer tomatoes on toasted sourdough with salt, pepper, and mayo. Given how simple this sandwich is, it's incredibly important that every element be of the highest order: great bread (crusty sourdough or thick-sliced pullman fresh from a bakery, if you can get it), the best mayo (Duke's, my new obsession!), a hearty sprinkle of sea salt or, if you don't have it, kosher salt (but not table salt, which typically has anti-caking agents, if you can avoid it), and of course, the best tomato in the bunch.
9. Tomato Tart
I love using tomatoes to make a super-simple puff pastry tart — just swipe the puff pastry with something creamy from the fridge (softened cream cheese, sour cream, spreadable goat cheese, or crème fraîche), pile on the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bake until the crust is golden. Then finish with a drizzle of olive oil and lots of fresh herbs!
10. Tomato-Avocado Toast
My favorite way to eat a perfectly ripe tomato: simply sliced and stacked on a buttered or avocado-smeared Model Bakery English muffin, generously seasoned with Maldon sea salt, and drizzled with the best olive oil in my kitchen. (A toasted slice of good-quality, crusty bread often stands in for the Napa Valley bakery's English muffin.)