These days, tomatoes are fairly easy to come by year-round, but the taste of them off-season leaves a little to be desired! That’s why I take advantage of making as many recipes as I can now so I can enjoy their sweet and juicy flavour before the season ends.
I tend to gravitate towards the Italian way of cooking (i.e.: less fuss and with premium ingredients), and these tomato-inspired recipes are no exception. Whip any of these up fast for a mid-week meal (just add any protein you like!) or for one of those last languid summer lunches on your patio or cottage deck.
Tomato basil salad
Just like the name suggests, this recipe only requires a few ingredients to take full advantage of the tomatoes fresh taste.
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pints of red grape tomatoes, Kumato tomatoes, or 6-8 large heirloom tomatoes, depending on size. (I like to use a variety of colours, and I’ll leave some whole and cut some in half; that way you have different textures in the dish.)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I use Kresse – a Swiss-made vinegar that has a subtle hint of flowers.)
15 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)
It couldn’t be easier: Chop the red grape tomatoes in half, or the heirloom tomatoes into bite-sized chunks.
Add to bowl, along with the garlic, salt and pepper.
Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar over top to coat the mixture, then sprinkle at the end with the basil leaves.
*To make it a heartier meal, add any protein you like (i.e.: Italian tuna, grilled chicken or fish) as well as a big bunch of arugula for that extra peppery kick.
Serve it up with a crusty piece of Italian bread so you dip into the delicious juices. Also amazing: Buffalo mozzarella, or my favourite: Burrata. It’s very loose and creamy.
Grilled mozzarella pizza
I told you I like Italian! This easy-to-make recipe relies on pre-made pizza dough (a godsend) and your grill. It may look basic, but it’s taste is anything but!
1 ball of store-bought pizza dough, cut in half (this recipe can yield 2 pizzas). Make sure you buy it from an Italian grocer so you know it’s the real thing!
8 slices of mozzarella
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (depends on how much you enjoy the taste of garlic)
1-2 tablespoons of fresh (or dried) oregano
Freshly-ground black pepper
Preheat your barbeque or indoor grill
Stretch and pull the dough ball to be able to form it into two large flat ovals, and place them on a thin pizza sheet and then place on the grill when it’s nice and hot.
Oil the dough with your extra virgin olive oil, grill for 2 minutes until you notice it begin to rise and you see grill marks forming.
Spread with your favourite tomatoes, sauce, garlic, mozzarella, then sprinkle with salt pepper and your oregano. (You can also use any other ingredients, too: Sausage, bacon, mushrooms, basil, hot peppers, anything you like!)
Cook until the toppings are heated through and the bottom of the dough is cooked. This could take anywhere from 2-3 minutes.
*Repeat same recipe for second pizza dough
Pan-seared branzino with tomatoes and capers
Filled with gorgeous colour and taste, this is a classic recipe for your dinner table that I love.
1 whole branzino (I prefer to use the fish whole as you get incredible flavour from the bones.)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup of red cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons of capers (make sure to drain and rinse them)
3 tablespoons of dry white wine (Remember: whatever wine you like to drink, you cook with!)
2 tablespoons of chopped Italian parsley
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, rinse the fish and pat it dry.
Place the fish on tin foil on a baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper inside and out of the fish.
Take tin foil and make a tent around the fish sealing the edges and when the oven is ready, place it in the middle rack.
*Cooking time depends on the size of the fish. You can check it by cutting gently down the backbone, and when the fish flakes off easily you know it’s ready. Keep a watchful eye here: overcooked fish is the worst!
In a separate pan, grill your tomatoes with the white wine, capers and Italian parsley.
When the fish is done cooking, take the foil off and debone it (it’s really not as hard as it looks!) and place the fish onto your serving tray, then pour all of the juices from the foil over the fish with little fresh lemon wedges on the side. Add your tomato and caper mixture and serve. It’s perfection!