Tis the season for vine-ripened, juicy, and plump tomatoes. The lackluster, watery tomatoes of winter are replaced with the brilliantly red harvest of the summer; it’s hard not to celebrate by making every dinner center around the fruit. You can of course add them to any salad, or make caprese dishes of a million different varieties. However, there are more creative ways to incorporate summer tomatoes into your meals. On top of expanding your palate, you’ll also have new ways to use up the glut of tomatoes that all seem to ripen at once — especially helpful if you have your own tomato vines in the backyard. Check out these recipes for some summer cooking inspiration.
1. Start off easy with this recipe from Foodie Crush for roasted tomatoes. You’ll bake cherry tomatoes with garlic cloves, fresh herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The tomatoes would make a great side with other vegetables for a steak or chicken dinner, with minimal prep. The blogger also suggests serving them cold.
2. Elevate tea party food (and skip the fussiness of the teas altogether) with open-faced tomato sandwiches with a cucumber spread. It’s reminiscent of a cucumber sandwich, complete with the cream cheese, dill, and cucumbers. To add a twist, you’ll add assorted fresh tomatoes and other seasonings to the sandwiches, adding a zing of additional fresh flavor to your summer lunches. To give this a try, check out the recipe from Southern Living.
3. Add tomatoes to your Mediterranean-inspired meals, including this lamb chop recipe from Real Simple. The lamb will be the star of the dinner, but the tomatoes and kalamata olives will hold their own as a supporting side. Real Simple holds true to its name with this dish, totaling just 25 minutes of work for a five-star meal that’s perfect for any night of the week.
4. Galettes are French freeform pastries, and can be either sweet or savory. In this case, you’ll layer fresh heirloom tomatoes into a pepper and Parmesan-seasoned pastry crust, topped with goat cheese, shallots, and other seasonings. Gallettes don’t need to be perfect; some of the charm is in their rustic nature. As a result you’ll have a dish that’s stress-free for a relaxing brunch. Midwest Living attests that this summer dish can be served warm or at room temperature.
5. Make a lasagna without turning on the oven with this no-bake, freeform version from Martha Stewart. You’ll still boil noodles, cutting them in half and then layering them with sautéed fresh tomatoes, zucchini, ricotta, and other lasagna staples. Like your summer, this classic pasta dish gets an update by being a little more carefree and unstructured — and escaping the heat of the oven.
6. For a tomato-centric salad that will the steal the show of any lunch or dinner, try this stacked salad from Cooking Light. Grilled corn, avocado, and bacon add to a well-balanced dish, though the tomatoes are guaranteed to steal the show. A homemade buttermilk dressing is a perfect and creamy complement to the simple recipe.
7. For a touch of the South, make your own version of fried green tomatoes. Yes, they really exist, and yes, they’re really delicious. This recipe from The Food Network will have you create your own seasoned breading and whip up a buttermilk dipping sauce for when the tomatoes come straight from the fryer. You could probably pan fry these as well if you don’t have (or don’t want to use) a deep fryer, though the breading probably won’t get as uniformly golden brown.
8. You’ve had every version of caprese salad you can imagine — or so you thought. Smoked and grilled fresh mozzarella is the centerpiece of this dish, in which a piping hot grill pan sears the outside for a crusty outside and gooey, melty center. However, it wouldn’t be complete without the arugula, basil, dressing, and — of course — fresh tomatoes. Delish has the directions for this recipe.
9. Some soups are best served cold, especially in the summer. That’s the case with this tiered tomato soup, which layers avocado and tomato soups upon each other for a bright, delicious appetizer or light meal. Sunset suggests serving the soup in a straight-sided glass or wineglass to showcase the layers. And despite looking complex, the soups are quite simple to prepare. Seemingly fancy, without all the behind-the-scenes effort.
10. It’s natural to want to bottle up some of the seasonal freshness for later, especially since summer produce seems like a distant memory when the chill of winter arrives. If you’ve never tried to preserve the fresh taste of tomatoes in a sauce, this primer from The Kitchn is exactly what you need. The directions are simple and so are the ingredients, but even so it will take an afternoon of effort for about 8 pints of the sauce. Even so, you’ll be able to practice to see if canning is something you want to do often — and perhaps get the hang of it enough to become the next sauce master of your family.
11. Nothing is better for a quick snack or appetizer than a fresh salsa in the summer. This version from Health has the added perk of being good for you, too. You’ll combine fresh peaches with a yellow or orange tomato, along with a jalapeño pepper and plenty of spices for a perfectly seasoned bite every time. Best of all, this recipe has just 14 calories per quarter-cup serving, which means you don’t have to feel guilty about digging in.
12. Yes, it’s possible to have tomatoes for dessert. Granted, this vanilla cornmeal crumb cake isn’t overly sweet, it’s got dessert written all over it with the sugary crumble and candied cherry tomatoes. Cornmeal in the cake itself will also serve as an ode to a corn and tomato mixture, a classic pairing for summer meals. “It’s like cornbread in cake form but with the thickest crumb topping that takes it over the top,” writes blogger Jessica Merchant on How Sweet It Is. If typical cakes are too sugary sweet for you and you’re willing to trust Merchant’s promise that the candied tomatoes aren’t too bizarre, definitely give this recipe a shot.