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Never too many tomatoes

(article, Carrie Floyd)

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I wait all year for in-season, juicy tomatoes — and then comes the deluge. Right now, my tiny garden plot resembles a tomato jungle, branches bent over wire cages, clusters of cherry tomatoes bursting at the seams. But I'm not complaining — especially not about a tomato picked right off the vine, warmed by the sun, spurting juice. 

How do I like tomatoes? Raw! Raw! Raw! I'll save cooking for another day, a cooler day, when the tomatoes aren't so abundant and flavorful. In the meantime, here are eight ways I'm gorging on the good stuff. 
 
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#(clear n1). [%image pasta float='clear right' width=300 caption="Pasta with fresh tomatoes"]Pasta with raw tomatoes and herbs. Make this uncooked sauce on a hot day and limit cooking to just boiling water for pasta. Other pasta dishes that work raw tomatoes into the mix (but require a bit of cooking) are pesto pasta, two-tomato pasta and summer zucchini pasta. 

#(clear n2). [%image relish float='clear right' width=300 caption="Tomato-olive relish"]Tomato-olive relish. Top grilled fish or chicken with this zesty relish, or pair it with cured meats for a riff on the muffaletta sandwich. You could also stir it into cooked pasta with an extra splash of olive oil for a room-temperature meal or, chilled, for pasta salad.

#(clear n3). [%image bruschetta float='clear right' width=300 caption="Tomato-basil bruschetta"]Variations on toast. Tomato-Basil Bruschetta shines with late-season tomatoes, but more often than not, I make the Catalan dish pa amb tomàquet: slices of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and the cut side of a fat, juicy tomato, drizzled with a fruity extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Delish. 

#(clear n4). [%image caprese float='clear right' width=300 caption="A Caprese salad"] Insalata Caprese. The holy trinity of summer salads: tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella. I like a combination of tomatoes — heirloom, yellow pear and red cherry — which I layer with basil (whole if the leaves are pretty, chopped if they're not) and slices of fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and you're done. This combination is also good as a sandwich or an appetizer (layered on baguette slices).

#(clear n5). [%image potato float='clear right' width=300 caption="Greek-style potato salad"]Salad. Beyond the classic Caprese salad, how do I love salads with tomatoes? Let me count the plates: Niçoise, fattoush, romaine with bacon and blue-cheese dressing, tabouli, quinoa, farro, penne with herbs, green bean, Israeli, Greek spinach,  potato with feta and basil . . .

#(clear n6). [%image blt float='clear right' width=300 caption="A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich"]Sandwiches. Is there anything better than a thick slice of ripe, juicy tomato dripping from a BLT or burger? Gild the lily and stir a spoonful of pesto into the mayo. Another sandwich that makes the most of in-season tomatoes is grilled mozzarella with pesto and tomato. 

#(clear n7). [%image gazpacho float='clear right' width=300 caption="Cold gazpacho soup"]Gazpacho. This soup is a Culinate standby, not only because it's a cinch to make, but also because it's so dang good. If the forecast says HOT, make a big batch to stow in the fridge and dip into to cool off. Lunch, appetizer, dinner — it's all good. 

#(clear n8). [%image salsa float='clear right' width=300 caption="Tomato-avocado salsa"]Tomato-Avocado Salsa. Sure, we all have a favorite brand of salsa we buy year-round, but now's the time to seize the tomato and make your own. This salsa is tasty with chips or as a taco condiment; try it with grilled shrimp or beef.

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p(clear bio). Carrie Floyd is Culinate's food editor.


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