Cristina Ferrare's steak and tomatoes
Now is the best time to take advantage of the sweet, earthy, juicy flavor of tomatoes. Discover more than 10 ways to eat and prepare tomatoes this summer from Cristina Ferrare.
I prefer to eat tomatoes only during the summer months when they are sweet, the seeds aren't bitter, the skin is thin and they actually taste like a tomato! I always compare tomatoes to the ones I would eat as a child. Growing up in Cleveland, we only ate tomatoes in the summer because they just weren't available in the winter months. I couldn't wait until spring when I would beg my dad to take me to the garden center to buy packages of seeds for my garden. I would plant basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, onions, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini and three different varieties of tomatoes.

Ah, the tomatoes from the garden! One of my favorite things to do was to pick a ripe tomato, take out my little tiny shaker of Morton salt (the company use to make individual small shakers of salt that you could carry in your pocket), break open the skin to expose the inside and sprinkle the salt over the opened area. I would pull off a fresh basil leaf from the thick rows growing right next to the tomato vines, pop it into my mouth and then take a big, juicy bite out of the sweet, vine-ripened fruit!

There was something about the way the tomatoes smelled while still on the vine—so earthy and clean that it would literally shift my mood upon inhaling it and had a calming effect on me. To this day, the flavor and aroma is indelibly ingrained in my taste buds. The only way to enjoy that same distinctive flavor is to eat tomatoes that are grown organically in a home garden. If you don't have a garden, the open farmers' market in the summer will have great-tasting tomatoes. They're not quite as spectacular as the ones pulled seconds off the vine, but at least they are flavorful.

Personally, I love the beefsteak, Roma, heirloom and the tiny baby cherry tomatoes:
  • The heirlooms are tomatoes that are grown from seeds that are generations old and taste like a tomato from the old days! They are odd looking and come in funny shapes, sizes and colors, like yellow, orange and purple. They are simply delicious sliced thick and served with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves and kosher salt. You can also add slices of my favorite cheese, burrata, which is a creamy Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream that simply melts in your mouth, and thin slices of imported prosciutto. Serve it with a warm, crunchy baguette a cold glass of white wine, and it's summer heaven!
  • I also cook with and use Roma tomatoes a lot. If you check out my videos on tomatoes, I will show you how you can make two different dishes: a BLT-inspired appetizer and a classic bruschetta recipe. I also have a delicious Fresh Roma Tomato Sauce recipe. The recipes will serve four to six people using just one bowl of tomatoes—a real money saver! This comes in handy if you have a garden. The markets will also have so many tomatoes on hand and offer great prices. Buy a lot and make your sauces and soups, and freeze or can them. That way you can still taste summer goodness all winter long!

Get more ideas for how to use tomatoes in delicious dishes this summer
Besides what I offer in my videos, here are a few more examples of what to do with all the tomatoes that are ripe and ready to be eaten!

  • Slice tomatoes thick and top with kosher salt, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a warm, crunchy baguette to soak up the extra olive oil, plain and simple!
  • Slice tomatoes for a BLT on sourdough toast using extra-thick bacon, fried crispy with arugula and spicy mayo. (Add Tabasco to the mayo for an extra kick.)
  • Make tomato salsa using chopped red onions, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeños, kosher salt, limes and olive oil. You can also add fresh corn kernels right from the cob as well as black beans. I use the extra-thick tortilla chips that I heat in the oven before serving.
  • Make tomato & grilled bread salad by cutting up tomatoes into bite-size pieces along with grilled sour dough or a baguette, and toss with fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt and cracked pepper.
  • Toss tomatoes with white navy beans in a salad with sliced celery, cucumbers, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, cracked pepper, fresh chopped parsley, basil and fresh lemon juice. You can even toss in canned tuna. If you don't want to boil fresh beans, use canned and rinse them gently but well.
  • Grilling tomatoes brings out the sweetness of the fruit. Cut the tomato in half, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, fresh-cracked pepper and grill for at least five to six minutes face down until grill marks form. You only need to do one side. Serve it over a crostini or your favorite bread toasted or grilled with a chunk of fresh Parmesan cheese for a great appetizer. The grilled tomatoes are also delicious on grilled fish with added extra-virgin olive oil and some capers.
  • Make an updated version of Greek salad using cut up cherry or baby Roma tomatoes, wild arugula, feta cheese, fresh oregano with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, kosher salt and pepper.
  • Make a fabulously chilled gazpacho soup with all the wonderful summer veggies like cucumbers, zucchini and fresh herbs.
  • Don't forget to top your favorite sandwiches with a thick slice of tomato, including, of course, grilled burgers!
  • I make my own sundried tomatoes and use them in salads, sandwiches and pasta. To do this, cut Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them skin side down on a baking sheet. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt and cracked pepper, and bake for five to seven hours on very low heat in the oven (200 degrees). Store in a glass jar with airtight lid. Add more olive oil before storing to cover the tomatoes. They'll keep for thee months in the refrigerator. I love the dried tomatoes on homemade pizza with red onion, fresh basil, goat cheese and crushed red pepper flakes for a great taste sensation.
Speaking of taste sensations, since this is grilling season and everyone is grilling everything, I would like to share a recipe for a Grilled T-bone Steak with Greek Tomato Salsa.

Sending "a big bowl of love filled with tomatoes,"

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