Fruit or vegetable, the controversial tomato is a summer staple. From salads and sandwiches to dips and sauces, tomatoes are everywhere. But I have a rocky relationship with them. Small salad tomatoes, like the grape variety, usually end up nestled in a corner of my plate, uneaten. I prefer smooth tomato sauce to chunky. And growing up, I watched in horror when my grandmother bit into a shiny red tomato like it was an apple. I've since calmed down and learned to enjoy them. My best advice: If a recipe calls for grape or cherry tomatoes, broil them first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, set tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Leave them in until they are soft, about 20 minutes. There are plenty of other ways to use up this shiny fruit. Here are five fun summer recipes to consider.
Brittany Volk, Times staff writer
Sicilian Tomato Salad
An easy way to dish out your tomato overload is to just eat them raw. With the addition of a few fresh ingredients, this salad is a simple side dish or a light lunch. First, cut 3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon garlic salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Slice ½ medium sweet onion and add to tomatoes. Toss in ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon oregano and a handful of chopped fresh basil, depending on how much you like. Marinate at room temperature for at least an hour to let the flavor develop. The salad is delicious on its own, but have crusty bread on hand to soak up the juices. Serves 4. Recipe from food.com.
Caprese Garlic Bread
When you have a pizza craving, try this fresh take instead. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve 1 loaf ciabatta bread horizontally and place both sides of the baguette on a large baking sheet with the cut side up. In a small bowl, combine 4 tablespoons salted butter and 3 cloves minced garlic and spread evenly on bread halves. Place mozzarella cheese slices (about 12 ounces) on top of the bread, making sure the cheese covers the bread completely. Bake the bread for 12 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. While the bread is in the oven, make a balsamic reduction. In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup balsamic vinegar to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half. This should only take about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside. Remove the bread from the oven and top it with 2 sliced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into slices and serve. Serves 8. Recipe from twopeasandtheirpod.com.
No-Bake Summer Lasagna
A lasagna that doesn't require turning on the oven? We're in. In a small bowl, combine ½ cup ricotta, 3 tablespoons Parmesan and 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook 8 lasagna noodles, according to package instructions, then drain. Cook them completely, because there won't be any baking. Cut the noodles in half and place them on a baking sheet, coating them with some olive oil so they don't stick while you make everything else. Next, heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic and 2 pints halved grape tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Slice 2 zucchini into half moons and add to the same skillet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon torn fresh basil. Place a spoonful of tomatoes on four plates; top with a noodle and small spoonfuls of ricotta mixture, zucchini and more tomatoes. Repeat layering until noodles are used up and top with remaining tomatoes. Garnish with more basil. Serves 4. Recipe from marthastewart.com.
Greek Tomato Fritters (Domatokeftethes)
Enjoy a heavenly piece of Santorini, Greece, where this dish originated. Dice 5 Roma tomatoes and ¾ onion and place in a mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon thyme, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 pressed garlic clove and salt and pepper. Mix well. Stir in 1 cup flour and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Remove and add ½ cup flour, little by little. You want it to resemble a pancake-style batter. Mix in 1 tablespoon bread crumbs. (This is optional, but gives it an extra crunch.) Now it's time to fry. Heat ½ cup olive oil in a pan and add 1 spoonful of the tomato mixture to create one fritter. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, remove and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Repeat until all mixture is used. Serve hot. Makes roughly 12 to 14 fritters, depending on size. Serve these with a side of tzatziki. Recipe from lemonandolives.com.
Savory Tomato Sorbet
If you're looking for an out-of-the-box tomato recipe, this sorbet will raise some eyebrows. Cut 4 pounds large, ripe red tomatoes in half crosswise and remove seeds with a teaspoon. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate tomato flesh into a bowl to make a rough puree. (Discard seeds and skins.) Push puree through a strainer to remove any extraneous bits. You should have 4 cups puree; if you come up short, add a little water or grate another tomato. Stir together tomato puree, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 to 2 grated garlic cloves, black pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Use an ice cream machine to freeze tomato mixture, then transfer to an airtight container and store in freezer compartment of refrigerator until sorbet is firm, about 1 hour. Remove and keep at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Before you serve, make a cherry tomato garnish: Put 1 small diced shallot, 1 smashed garlic clove and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Halve 12 ounces cherry tomatoes and place in a bowl, then season with salt and pepper. Pour vinaigrette over tomatoes and toss well. For each serving, put 2 scoops of tomato sorbet in an ice cream glass or bowl. Spoon a few cherry tomatoes and some of the vinaigrette over the top. Garnish with basil. Makes 1 quart, which is enough for 6 servings. Recipe from the New York Times.