Growing up near the bucolic farmland of Western Maryland as I did, it would have been difficult—perverse, even—not to have developed a taste for the juicy, meaty tomatoes that my mother bought by the bushelful from roadside stands all during the hot, lazy months of summer. During tomato season, it didn’t matter that my mother was no great shakes in the kitchen; after all, the plump, fulsome tomatoes needed next to nothing to shine. We ate them with everything: on top of salads, alone with just a bit of salt, and, to this day, my favorite way—in sandwiches with plenty of mayonnaise.
It’s true that a proper summer tomato can stand entirely on its own, but I’ve played with it a bit in the following four dishes, while still allowing its essential tomato nature to shine. The fried green tomatoes are a classic of Southern cuisine, and the sweet heat of the Creole remou-lade works perfectly with their pleasantly bitter bite. The tomato and eggplant gratin, meanwhile, makes a fabulous side dish at a cookout, or works as a light meal on its own on a steamy summer night.
The tomato candy tartlets take just four basic ingredients—grape tomatoes, arugula, fresh cheese and pastry—and combine to become so much more than the sum of their parts. These addictive bites work either as a first course, a cocktail party hors d’oeuvre, or—if you’re feeling extra puckish—you could down them all in one sitting for a satisfying yet light meal.
Finally, the baked tomato eggs with blue cheese and bacon are the ultimate (slightly decadent) brunch dish. However you fancy your tomatoes, one thing is certain: with these four dishes at your fingertips, you’ll never again complain that you planted too many tomatoes in your garden.