An Ode To Summer Tomatoes

summer tomatoes

Summer is fleeting by and I couldn’t let it go without paying homage to all the beautiful tomatoes I’ve enjoyed all season long.  Summer tomatoes are the absolute best, there’s nothing like the taste of a fresh vine ripened tomato.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many sweet as sugar, clustered tomatoes on the vine that have graced my table, I can’t resist, they’re so gorgeous!summer tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are another big favorite of mine, the different varieties have a history that has been passed down through several generations. It’s been said that if you’ve never tasted an heirloom tomato, then you’ve never tasted a real tomato, I agree.

I love the odd and quirky shapes they have as well as their colors that range from near black to pink, golden yellow, green and ruby red, and the funny names like mortage lifter and green zebra, I could never get tired of them.tomato caprese

Insalata Caprese, I’ve made it so many times this summer, whenever I had a party, or went to a party or get together I usually brought a big platter full. It was always welcomed and gobbled up. Who doesn’t like juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, garden basil and good olive oil, it’s a win, win combination!tomato caprese

Caprese Salads really don’t need a recipe, they’re so simple to make and requires just a few quality ingredients, you must have beautiful ripe tomatoes, the best olive oil you can buy and fresh basil that you picked  preferably from your own pots.

The only thing is, you might want to change up the variety and color of tomatoes and the cheese you’ll be using, in my case it’s straight up fresh mozzarella or burrata.

Let’s talk burrata cheese for a minute, the outer shell is solid mozzarella but then when you break it open the inside is filled with soft stracciatella and cream, when paired with summer tomatoes it is a dream come true!tomato caprese

Sometimes I replace fresh basil with my homemade basil pesto which I also make each summer, dabbing it all around on top of the cheese and tomatoes for a flavor that will zap your senses.tomato caprese

When I want to indulge even more I’ll finish off my caprese salad with a swipe of rich balsamic glaze, you can just put me in a corner some where with a hunk of bread and I’ll be very happy.tomato caprese

I like changing up how I serve my summer tomatoes by either fanning them onto a platter or stacking the slices on top of each other as a little different presentation, as well cutting them into wedges and changing up the cheese  into little balls of mozzarella, better known as bocconcini.tomato capresetomato salad

No matter how it’s presented on a plate you can’t deny the caprese flavors that shine through and through, in my opinion it’s one of the best things about summer.summer roasted tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are fabulous fresh but their flavors are even more intense when roasted. I normally douse them with olive oil and sprinkle shaved fresh garlic all around and adding fresh basil at the end.

The blistered tomatoes create the most fabulous juice that becomes the perfect sauce to toss into cooked pasta, I’ve done this many times for family parties.tomato capresetomato caprese pasta

You can go one step further with that pasta and finish it off by placing some creamy burrata on top, this is an absolute summer favorite in my house and such a great dish for entertaining.tomato pasta

No cheese, no problem, just toss those juicy tomatoes in and eat!tomato lasagna

I will miss the perfection of the summer tomato and look forward to next year when they appear again, so on to the next season of apples and pumpkins!

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Fuss Free Entertaining

luncheon ideas Sometimes you just don’t need hours of planning and prepping in advance or cooking 3 days ahead of time when entertaining, especially in the summer months when things are more relaxed and casual. Here’s a few things I like to make when having friends or family stop by either on short notice or even planned in advance.

I love to spread everything out buffet style, once it’s laid out you can enjoy yourself and not worry about getting up and down to serve things.

Most of the ingredients I always have on hand either in my pantry or fridge, the others I usually buy weekly anyway and a couple of things I like to keep handy in my freezer. There’s no mayo required in any of this so you don’t have to worry about anything spoiling either.

focaccia sandwich ingredients Have you seen those round or square pre-made focaccia breads? I get mine at a local Italian market, but I’ve seen them in the bakery section at many different grocery stores, they keep really nice in the freezer and are easy to defrost. I’ve seen them topped with many things like olives, onions, jalepenos and chedder, they all look so pretty and they make a great sandwich.

My two favorites that I personally get are the ones topped with artichoke hearts and the simple crushed tomato topping, they taste so good as is, so I like to keep my deli meats simple. You’ll want to cut them horizontally with a serrated knife, just take your time and they will split in half fine.

What adds to the flavor of the sandwich is this oil based pepper spread, it’s a staple in my fridge, a mild combination of finely chopped veggies some spices and vinegar, like a giardiniera but only finely chopped, it’s spreads really nice and it’s packed with flavor. If you can’t find it finely chopped you can just pulse a regular jar of giardiniera in your food processor a few times to make it more spreadable.

focaccia sandwich I prefer not over packing my sandwich full of meats and cheese, just a simple layer will do, you have a lot going on in flavors with the topping and the spread. I used prosciutto and sliced Asiago on the artichoke topped one and  a rosemary ham also with Asiago on the other.

focaccia sandwich You can cut your focaccia sandwiches according to what other things you’ll be serving, out of one eight inch focaccia, I had six to nine servings.

caprese salad Who doesn’t like a caprese salad, the more it sits the better it gets! Even though it’s not officially tomato season, I was lucky to find some beautiful heirlooms and they tasted wonderful, in fact I’m going back for more.

shrimp and endive platter This endive salad is made with two bunches of endive, a half pound of cooked shrimp, an avocado, a hint of lemon,radishes, green onions, fresh basil and a light drizzle of olive oil all chopped into bite size pieces and folded together and then spooned onto individual endive leaves and arranged on a platter. So simple and so light and a nice presentation to boot, I could eat this alone for lunch!

pasta salad This pasta salad is also light and fresh, there’s no mayo in here,the creaminess comes from goat cheese and it’s all tossed in a light vinaigrette.

pasta salad It’s an old recipe from Martha, you can take the basic concept and add or take away any ingredients you personally like, I added red pepper strips to mine, but it’s delicious and it can sit out on a buffet without worry.

luncheon party

Add in some fresh fruit and olives then tell your friends to bring dessert, cannolis in my case!

Pour a glass of wine, sit and enjoy the time with your guests.

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A Blast from the Past…Heirloom Tomatoes

Have you ever tasted heirloom tomatoes? We’re actually trying to grow them in our garden this year, the ones pictured here are not mine, I bought these beauties from Whole Foods the other day, I just couldn’t resist that fluted one! Normally a whopping $5.00 dollars a pound, the day I was there they were just 2.99! Such a deal!!

Heirlooms are grown from seeds handed down through generations, somewhere between 50 and 100 years old. There’s no genetic modifications, they are cross- pollinated, and they are not cookie cutter hybrids.

They come in all shapes and sizes, lumps and bumps, hundreds of varieties, with almost every color of the rainbow to choose from.
Heirlooms generally have much more flavor than hybrids, it’s that good old fashioned taste of a real tomato I remember as a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I have tasted some duds, but that was mainly because of where they were grown.

When you see them popping up at the farmers markets ask to taste them, you’ll quickly pick out your favorite ones. Or better yet, trying growing your own if you can!
I loved how the fluted one looked after I cut into it, I didn’t want to hide it with a bunch of cheese. They look beautiful on a platter dressed up with the simplest of ingredients, don’t you think?

With some good crusty bread, a glass of wine, you can make a meal out of these, they’re that good!!
Have an enjoyable weekend, and Buon Appetito!
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