Ahh, tomato season—it really doesn’t get any better than right now. From a tomato-basil salad with gooey burrata or sliced bufala mozzarella, to a chilled tomato gazpacho with red peppers and cucumber on a hot summer night, to plucking a ripened tomato right off the vine and biting into it like an apple, or simply drizzling a few slices with olive oil and sea salt, there really is no wrong way to enjoy the beloved nightshade.
Savor the peak of everyone’s favorite summer harvest this Labor Day weekend with these simple, tomato-forward recipes. For more inspiration check out the N.C. Tomato Grower’s Association (NCTGA) to figure out where to find the best, fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes near you. As always, shop local and support North Carolina’s small farmers and businesses whenever you can.
Mixed Cherry Tomatoes with Almonds & Herbs
Courtesy of Papa Spud’s
This colorful, attractive dish is super easy to put together. Beautiful multi-colored cherry tomatoes are combined with chopped almonds and fresh parsley. The dressing has a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and lemon juice for freshness and acidity. Perfectly balanced, beautiful dish, that lets the ingredients speak for themselves.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves 4 as a side
- 1 Pint mixed cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
Slice the tomatoes into a variety of disks and wedges, different sizes and shapes add to the texture of the dish.
Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, and paprika in a small bowl, mix well to make the dressing.
In a serving bowl, combine tomatoes, shallots, half the almonds, and three quarters of the parsley. Add the dressing and toss until coated. Add salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with the remaining parsley and almonds and serve.
Stir-Fried Long Beans with Cherry Tomatoes
Courtesy of Transplanting Traditions Community Farm
The key to long beans is high heat. When fully cooked, they will be mostly tender with just a little firmness left—they should not taste crunchy or raw, but they won’t be quite as soft as a green bean. Whether roasting, sautéing, or stir-frying, make sure you use enough heat to almost blister them. Alternatively, they’re great added into a curry or soup and cooked until tender.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serves 4 as a side
- 1 bunch long beans (Approx. 1-lb), chopped into 2-inch pieces
- A half-pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2-3 Tbsp. coconut oil or other oil with a high smoking point
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch knob ginger, minced
- 1-2 hot chilies, minced
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (optional)
- 3 tsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- Juice of a small lime
- Salt to taste
- Toasted, crushed peanuts (optional)
In a mortar and pestle (or immersion blender), pound the garlic and ginger and chilies into a paste. (If you don’t have a mortar, just mince the garlic, chilies, and ginger.) Heat a wok or skillet over high heat and add the oil. Once sizzling, add the chilies, garlic, and ginger paste and stir for a minute or less until fragrant. Add the chopped long beans, soy sauce, and brown sugar and stir for a few minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes.
If the beans are not quite yet tender, cover for a minute to let them steam. Uncover, stir, and taste for doneness. Remove from heat, add a drizzle of fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime juice. Taste for salt and acid. Top with crushed, toasted peanuts and serve.
Watermelon Tomato Cucumber Salad with Feta and Mixed Herbs
This updated watermelon salad features the very best of summer all in one bowl, and is an instant hit at any barbecue. Salty Bulgarian feta makes for a natural seasoning, while arugula gives way to a peppery finish. The addition of cucumber provides an extra crunch. Use any combination of fresh herbs available at your farmers market—you really can’t go wrong. If you want to get creative, try grilling your watermelon and letting it cool slightly before cubing, making the dish even more savory and mouth-pleasing.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Serves 4-6 as a side
- 4–6 large tomatoes, heirloom if possible, cut into cubes
- 1 small watermelon, optional seedless, cut into cubes
- 1 large English cucumber, cut into cubes
- 3-4 cups loosely packed arugula
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 cup feta cheese, Bulgarian if possible, crumbled or cubed
- 1/2 cup combination of fresh, torn mixed herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, tarragon, etc.)
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Whisk olive oil and red wine vinegar with sea salt and set aside. Combine tomatoes, watermelon, and cucumber in a large bowl, and add the mixed herbs. Drizzle olive oil-vinegar dressing and stir gently. Add arugula and feta and toss to combine, but don’t overmix. Finish with sea salt and black pepper, and chill until ready to serve.
Fresh Tomato-Mango Salsa with Spanish Onion
On a recent trip to Woodstock, N.Y., we made a big bowl of this salsa with whatever simple ingredients were on hand. The yield really depends on the number of tomatoes you’re using, as well as the size, plus however large the vessel you’re serving it out of—which you’ll want to fill about three-quarters of the way up. You can use a mix of cherry, heirloom, or vine-ripened tomatoes, and even substitute white peaches for mango. One night, we repeated the recipe with a couple of white plums. Adjust heat by using more or less jalapeńo.
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 4-6 ripe tomatoes, cut into very small cubes
- 1 ripe mango, cut into small chunks
- 1 jalapeńo, deseeded and minced (start with about half)
- 1 bunch cilantro (or as much as you can handle), chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Spanish onion
- A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and adjust salt and heat to taste. Serve immediately.
Next-Level Tomato Sandwich with a Fried Egg
Food writer Melissa Clark’s tomato sandwich technique ingeniously rubs each slice of bread with a tomato slice, which is a great use for the top of the tomato which often gets discarded. This protein-forward adaptation with a fried egg might just make this messy monster of a breakfast sandwich the very best you’ll have this summer—especially when you add a couple slices of bacon. For a savory finish, add a couple sprigs of thyme.
Prep time: 15 minutes
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, on-the-vine or heirloom
- 4 slices of your favorite bread—the crustier, the better
- 2 large farm fresh (preferably cage-free) eggs
- 1 large garlic clove, cut crosswise
- A few slices white or red onion
- Optional: 4 slices of bacon (or your favorite fakin’ bacon)
- Your favorite mayonnaise or veganaise substitute
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Salt and pepper to finish
Toast the bread and rub one side of each slice with a slice of garlic. Slice off the top of one tomato (cut it thick) and rub one side of just two slices of bread with it. Slice off the other top and repeat as needed. Spread mayo on the other two slices of bread. Slice the remainder of the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh thyme, if using, and top with salt and pepper. Set aside so the flavors can infuse. Meanwhile, heat two skillets, one for the eggs and the other for the bacon, if using. Fry each to your liking and assemble your sandwiches. As Melissa Clark says, you might want to eat this one over the sink.
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