It may be foolish to begin our Summer Countdown with something so obvious, but I'm not afraid to resort to a little foolishness — especially when it comes to something as important as summer tomatoes. Which should actually just read "tomatoes," but sadly folks still think they can be consumed at other times of the year, so I'll continue to mount the well-worn treads of my soapbox.
On second thought, you don't need another summer tomato versus the tomato-of-the-rest-of-the-year lecture. You just have to go out and find yourself a true homegrown tomato and try one (or all) of the Three Essential Summer Tomato Experiences listed below. Of course, there are an endless list of things you can do with a deeply ripe summer tomato, but these are the three I'm always sure to do every year come August.
The only rule is that they must be made with tomatoes either grown by you, someone you know, or a farmer you trust — and they must be eaten out of doors.
The 3 Essential Summer Tomato Experiences
1. Eat a perfect tomato, unadorned.
I outline the details in this old Weekend Meditation from 2013, but basically you just eat a sliced tomato with a knife and fork, much like you would a steak. A deceptively simple but truly gastronomic peak experience. As I said in the post: "It was the food of now, and of here, and it was enormously satisfying."
2. Slap together a tomato sandwich.
No lettuce, no bacon — just thin slices of good country bread slathered with mayo (or butter or olive oil if you're mayo-adverse), layered with thick slices of tomatoes, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. That's it. Don't worry, you can still have your BLT another time, but for now try this less-is-more approach to really savor the exceptional flavor of summer tomatoes.
3. Make a panzanella salad.
I've listed a few recipes below, but basically this is a salad of roughly chopped ripe tomatoes tossed with cubes of toasted bread and a garlicky, herby (occasionally anchovy-y) dressing. Other vegetables such as red onion and cucumber can also be included. The juices from the tomatoes and the garlicky dressing soak into the bread and everything comes together into a gorgeous symphony of flavor and texture and bliss.
Make one; make all three. But don't let summer end without this essential tomato experience.