It’s August and it’s the high season of tomatoes. I didn’t like tomatoes as a kid…which I try to remind myself when my children turn their noses up at fresh tomatoes. Owen adores tomato sauce so I know that one of these days he will fall in love with fresh tomatoes the way I have. Leo? Well, Leo's a whole nother story but he is definitely a lot like me so one perhaps one day he'll moan in happiness at the scent of an August tomato as I have been known to do.


When you have a lot of tomatoes there are several things you MUST to do.

1. Eat a classic tomato sandwich. White bread (wheat if you must), sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise (Hellman’s people, Hellman’s), a little salt and pepper. That’s it. It’s juicy and it drips and it is heavenly. If you have NOT had one this summer go make one right this minute.




2. If you’ve already eaten your classic tomato sandwich then you might want to do what is basically an Italian salad version of it: panzanella. Get a nice crusty baguette and tear it into pieces. Let it sit a few days or toast it in a medium oven. Then make a vinaigrette and toss in cut up tomatoes, a bit of cut up cucumbers and even a little bit of slivered bell pepper if you like. Then, about 15-20 minutes before you want to eat just toss the bread and a handful of basil in with it all. Toss it together and sit and stare at it longingly until the juices of the vegetables and vinaigrette have begun to saturate the bread.

I don’t know about you…but I find this HEAVENLY! If you want you could have a bit of chicken or fish or what have you on the side but it’s pretty great on it’s own. You could also toss some cheese in it as well.

Here is our batch before we tossed in the basil….

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In fact, you don't really need a recipe for panzanella but this one is a nice guide. I skipped the cheese and olives when I made it but I'm sure it's great with it. Oh, that's right, I didn't have any fennel either. Oh, and I only had one small green pepper rather than the yellow and red….. You see what I mean about it being just a guide, don't you? Oh yeah, I don't think I had that much lemon zest either….


by Rick Tramonto, Mary Goodbody, and Belinda Chang from the cookbook Fantastico
as found at

  • 4 cups torn pieces of sourdough or rustic peasant bread, 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 5 assorted ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size and shape
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced, fronds reserved
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved Niçoise olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano chees

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until slightly crisp. (The pieces should not be as crispy as croutons.) Alternatively, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and let them dry, uncovered, for about 24 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, capers, zest, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, add the extra virgin olive oil in a stream until well incorporated.

Add the onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, fennel, and olives and toss with the vinaigrette. Adjust the salt and pepper.

Tear the fennel fronds and add them to the bowl along with the basil and bread. Toss to coat. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Divide the salad among 4 plates. Garnish each plate with shaved cheese and serve. If you prefer a moister salad, drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil.

3.  Now you can move on to all the other classic summer tomato makings: sliced with a bit of salt and pepper, tossed with basil, with basil and fresh mozzerella for Caprese salad, just cut up with some cucumber, tomato and watermelon salad, salsa, BLT's… know….the kind of simple tomato dishes that you just do and you don't need a recipe.

4. And last but not least, if you're overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes? Roast 'em! Low oven of 225-250 degrees (won't heat up the house TOO much), cut them in half, a bit of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper…..2-3 hours. You can toss some garlic cloves in or some herbs. I kind of like keeping them simple because then I can use them in whatever I want and there won't be conflicting flavors. Well, 'conflicting flavors' sounds awfully dramatic but I think you know what I mean. You can eat them right up as an appetizer (perhaps with a bit of fresh mozzarella or something else dabbed on top?), or throw them in pasta or salads. If you want to keep them just put them in a jar in the refrigerator with olive oil covering them (and the flavored olive oil is good in vinaigrettes).
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Happy Tomatoing!
Please tell me your favorite way to use summer tomatoes….



5 thoughts on “High Tomato Season: Sola Gratia Farm Week Thirteen

  1. My favorite summer tomato dish is fresh uncooked tomato sauce. Amounts vary to your taste.. maybe 4 cups chopped tomatoes (I like to use a combination of red, orange, yellow, green,etc, if for no other reason than it looks pretty), minced garlic, a little hot pepper, chopped kalamata olives, red or white onion, lots of basil (and some mint if you have any), maybe 1/2 cup olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar and that’s it. For four people I would use a lb of cooked pasta. Toss and it’s ready to go with some grated cheese. Roasted potatoes go REALLY well with this!

  2. I think I put mine in a FB post earlier, but I do a variation of uncooked tomato sauce that I use for grilled pizza: blanch a bunch of tomatoes so you can pull the skins off. Core them, and them smoosh them up in a bowl. Throw a few glugs of really good, fruity olive oil, a bit of sea salt, and some chopped fresh herbs (lots of basil is my preference) and maybe some garlic powder (surprisingly, not fresh — you want this to dissipate quickly). Let sit for at least an hour or two. Throw on grilled pizza with fresh mozz. Heaven.
    I do love a good fresh tomato sandwhich, tho. Just like Harriet the Spy.

  3. I love
    BLT sandwhichs
    toasted cheese and tomato sandwhichs
    my summer veggie dish, which is: slice a zucchini,layer in cassarole dish, slice an onion, layer on top of zucchini, slice a tomato or two,layer on top of onions, sprinkle on sea salt and fresh ground pepper, then bake covered for one hour in 350 degree oven, uncover and top with grated cheddar, return to oven until cheese melts or browns a bit if you like. Heavenly.

  4. Love the classic tomato sandwich – yes, with Hellman’s! One of my favorites is fried green tomatoes – absolutely wonderful and brings memories of my Mom.