Whether homegrown or store-bought, fresh tomatoes are the star of summer meals.
In Season: Tomatoes are at their most flavorful in summer.
What to Look For: Often, the best-tasting tomatoes are grown locally. Look for ones that yield slightly to pressure and are fragrant and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth, brightly colored, and free of blemishes.
How to Store: Keep tomatoes at room temperature until ripe, and then use within a day or two. Don't refrigerate them, as it will affect their flavor.
Make an elegant and memorable salad by pairing buttery avocado with juicy, multicolored tomatoes. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper is all the seasoning this easy salad needs. Serve with grilled steak or chicken for a delicious summer meal.
Using purchased puff pastry makes for quick preparation of this beautiful savory tart. Spread the pastry with a mixture of sour cream and grainy mustard, top with sauteed leeks and cherry tomatoes, and bake until golden brown. Finally, scatter crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme or basil over the top.
Toast cubes of crusty day-old bread before tossing them with fresh tomatoes, red onion, red-wine vinegar, olive oil, and lots of fresh basil. With a spoonful of creamy ricotta cheese on top of each serving, this panzanella salad is substantial enough to enjoy as a vegetarian main course.
Here's a genius way to use those unripened green tomatoes: Cut them into thick slabs and char them on the grill until they're softened and slightly sweet. Drizzle the grilled tomatoes with a creamy sauce easily made in the food processor with fresh basil, garlic, lemon juice, and prepared mayonnaise.
Sprinkle wedges of garden-fresh tomatoes with salt and pepper, and serve them alongside shots of chilled vodka. Serve this refreshing, fun combination to welcome guests to a summer party.
Marinate sliced heirloom tomatoes in olive oil for an hour before scattering over homemade pizza dough with pecorino cheese, guanciale (or pancetta), and a sprinkling of dried oregano. This recipe is courtesy of chef Chris Bianco, owner of the acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.
This variation of that favorite summer appetizer, bruschetta, uses mild, sweet roasted garlic rather than raw. Mash the roasted garlic and mix it with chopped parsley, thyme, and rosemary or oregano, then brush half of the mixture onto bruschetta and stir the other half into chopped beefsteak tomatoes.
Sprinkle tomato slices with sugar and chopped fresh herbs -- basil, oregano, or rosemary -- and bake them at 250 degrees for several hours, evaporating the water they contain and concentrating their flavor. Preserve the dried tomatoes in olive oil with rosemary and thyme, keeping them on hand to enjoy in pasta, soups, and dips.
Toast thin slices of garlic in olive oil, at once flavoring the oil and rendering the garlic chewy and slightly sweet. Combine the garlic oil with diced beefsteak tomatoes, halved multicolored cherry tomatoes, chopped olives, oregano, and balsamic vinegar.
A colorful chopped salad unites several summer garden favorites: peaches, corn, cucumbers, and basil, lightly dressed with lime juice and olive oil. Scoop out ripe beefsteak tomatoes, season the insides with salt and pepper, and scoop the salad into them for serving.
This quick and easy version of the classic Italian panzanella salad calls for a hoagie roll in place of the more traditional country bread. Combine the bread cubes with tomato wedges, fresh mint leaves, Kalamata olives, and a lemony dressing, and let stand for at least five minutes to let the juices soak into the bread.
Make a quick and colorful vinaigrette by pureeing fresh basil with olive oil and white-wine vinegar in a blender. Arrange sliced ripe tomatoes and fresh goat cheese on serving plates or a single platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette.
Season chickpeas and chunks of eggplant with curry powder and roast them along with plum tomatoes, carrots, and garlic cloves to give them a rich, sweet flavor. This vegetarian soup can be frozen for up to three months so you can enjoy vivid summer flavors even in cold weather.
Roast halved, sugar-sprinkled plum tomatoes at 350 degrees for an hour to intensify their flavor for this chunky pasta sauce. Combine the roasted tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, capers, lemon juice, and fresh basil, and enjoy the sauce over hot spaghetti.
A savory Parmesan pastry crust encloses sauteed shallot and zucchini, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, basil, and miniature balls of fresh mozzarella (known as bocconcini). Serve this savory summer tart with a green salad for an elegant lunch or light dinner.
Use a combination of colors and varieties of miniature tomatoes, such as cherry and teardrop, to make this fast, fresh bruschetta. Toss the halved tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and crushed red-pepper flakes, pile onto garlic toasts, and garnish with dill sprigs.
Heat extra-virgin olive oil with thinly sliced garlic cloves to infuse it with zesty flavor. Arrange an assortment of sliced heirloom tomatoes on a platter, drizzle them with the cooled garlic oil, and sprinkle with fresh chives and basil before serving.
Arrange thick slices of tomato in a baking dish, sprinkle with a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, lemon zest, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh thyme, and roast until golden. This rustic preparation from the south of France is excellent with grilled steak, seafood, or chicken.
Shred yellow and orange tomatoes and English cucumber on a box grater to achieve the perfect texture for this sunny gazpacho. Season the cool soup with minced garlic and sherry vinegar, and stir in quartered yellow grape tomatoes. Garnish each serving with chopped hard-cooked eggs and Serrano ham.
The goat cheese in this terrine is blended with milk and gelatin to give it a smooth-but-firm texture. Mix together peeled, seeded yellow and red tomatoes, roasted garlic, arugula, and basil, and layer in a plastic-lined loaf pan with the goat cheese mixture.
Puree beefsteak tomatoes and cantaloupe, and allow the mixture to drain in cheesecloth to produce the delicate, sweet "tomato water" that surrounds these elegant salads. Create the salads by combining sliced heirloom and cherry tomatoes with cantaloupe balls, fresh basil, and olive oil.
Instead of simmering this sauce on the stove, roast the tomatoes, onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme in a 425-degree oven to create a sauce with a rich, slightly smoky flavor. Use as a pizza or lasagna sauce, or stir in olives and capers and spoon over baked chicken.
This basic tomato sauce contains only ripe plum tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Run the simmered sauce through a food mill if you like a smooth texture, and embellish it in any way you like, adding herbs, sausage, capers, olives, or anything that suits your fancy.
Seedless watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, Thai basil, red onion, feta cheese, and avocado make a colorful and refreshing combination. Grate fresh ginger root and squeeze in a piece of cheesecloth to extract the juice to make the zingy vinaigrette for this summery salad from chef Laurent Tourondel.
This traditional Spanish cold tomato soup is thickened with day-old bread soaked in water. Puree the bread with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, green bell pepper, red-wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil, and garnish each serving of gazpacho with homemade croutons.
Make a "semi-confit" of cherry tomatoes by heating them in light olive oil with garlic, thyme, and a bay leaf, and storing them in the seasoned oil until ready to use. To create this savory tart, spread a mixture of cooked rice, Dijon mustard, and heavy cream on the bottom of a baked pastry shell, and top with the tomatoes and fresh basil. This recipe is courtesy of chef Michel Roux.