Sunday, August 2, 2009

No Matter How You Say It, It's Tomato Season!

This post isn't so much a recipe than a reminder: get thyself to a farmers market, asap! Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak... and when they're gone, well... it's a long, bland tomato road ahead.

The uses for heirloom tomatoes are endless, but it's kind of a no-brainer to break out a simple Caprese salad recipe to use up all those Brandywines, Green Zebras and Cherokee Purples. There's not much more to it than this:
  • Chopped or sliced fresh tomatoes
  • Fresh basil (whole leaves or chopped)
  • Fresh whole milk mozzerella cheese
  • A bit of really good fruity olive oil (I have been using a local Napa Valley olive oil, Atlas Peak; I particularly like their Arbequina varietal)
  • Fresh cracked sea salt

Throw everything in a bowl or serving platter, give it a bit of time for the flavors to meld, and you've got a versatile, scrumptious dish. In fact, I can eat variations on Caprese a dozen ways til Sunday! Here's how:
  1. Plain old Caprese salad (pictured).
  2. Turn a Caprese salad into a panzanella salad by adding hunks of toasted bread, capers, red onions and chopped red bell pepper.
  3. Bruschetta topping - spoon the Caprese onto grilled baguette slabs for an amazing appetizer.
  4. Margherita pizza - same ingredients put atop the pizza dough and red sauce of your choice.
  5. Antipasto sandwich - hollow out a small loaf of French or Sourdough bread, load it with the Caprese salad (drained), plus chopped olives (green, black, Kalamats - whatever you like), chopped pepperoncini and chopped salami; wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap and let sit tight in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight to let the flavors and juices soak into the bread (this is an excellent variation to try with day-old or nearly stale bread... the juices soften it right up).
  6. Caprese tart - take my recipe for Tomato, Herb and Cheese Tart and substitute mozzerrella for the chevre.
  7. Caprese pasta - toss the ingredients into a big bowl of the pasta of your choice (I like bow tie or angel hair); top with grilled shrimp.
  8. Chicken Caprese Burger, a la the Leftover Queen.
  9. Stuffed portobello mushrooms - grill portobellow mushrooms; stuff the caps with the Caprese salad and allow the cheese to melt. You could do the same and stuff any manner of other veggies as well: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, etc.
  10. Caprese polenta - serve the tomato salad over a base of creamy polenta; drizzle with a balsamic reduction.
  11. Caprese skewers: load up cocktail skewers with the Caprese ingredients (find those great orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes) for another great appetizer.
  12. Caprese-style Gazpacho - make a refreshing, cool summer soup by blending the Caprese salad ingredients with chopped cucumbers, a couple slices of crusty French bread, pressed garlic and red wine vinegar.
I'm at a dozen ideas already?! I guess I'd better get cooking. You too - let me know how it goes!


  1. GREAT uses!!! I love this time of year, fresh summer tomatoes are the best!

  2. These are some great recipes! Here is another tomato recipe that brings out the fruit's best flavor!

  3. I absolutely love heirloom tomatoes. I buy tons of them in the summer from my local farmers market.

  4. love the freshness this has to it!