IF you grow your own tomatoes, you know the pleasure of plucking a warm, red globe off the vine, sprinkling it with sea salt and relishing it then and there with the juice running down your arm.
That may be the ultimate way to enjoy a fresh ripe tomato, but here are a few more that highlight the special flavour you only get during the summer.
SLICED TOMATOES WITH SOUR CREAM AND DILL DRESSING
This is so simple it hardly even qualifies as a recipe, but the tangy dressing is absolutely divine on slices of ripe beefsteak tomato.
Â¾ cup good quality mayonnaise (such as "Polski Majonez," a Polish mayo that's better than any other I've tasted - some IGA stores carry it)
Â¼ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp buttermilk or half-and-half
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp grated sweet onion
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 to 4 large fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced approx. Â¼-inch thick
Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and stir well to blend. Dollop dressing on tomato slices. If you prefer a thinner dressing add a little more buttermilk or cream.
INDIVIDUAL GRILLED MARGHERITA PIZZAS
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed (from a 3loaf package)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced Â¼-inch thick and drained on paper towels
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (I use the mini bocconcini, cut in half)
1 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut into shreds
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the thawed bread dough into four pieces. On an oiled cookie sheet, spread and flatten one piece of dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Lightly brush dough with olive oil. Repeat with another piece of dough on the same sheet, and repeat process with remaining two pieces of dough on another cookie sheet. Cover and refrigerate sheets until ready to use.
Preheat barbecue to medium-low and place one piece of dough at a time on the grill, greased side down. Grill two to three minutes until grill marks appear on underside and dough firms up (it may puff slightly). Brush top with oil and with tongs turn crust over. Quickly arrange a quarter of tomatoes and each cheese on top of crust. Cook pizza four to six minutes longer or until cheese is melted and underside of crust is evenly browned and cooked through. Transfer pizza to cutting board and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and a quarter of the basil. Serve immediately. Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.
TOMATO AND SWEET ONION CRUMBLE
This is a nice accompaniment to grilled chicken or steak.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 sweet onions (about 1 lb.), such as Walla Walla
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 pounds firm ripe tomatoes (about 4 large), cored and sliced Â¼-inch thick
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil
3 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 slices crusty artisanstyle bread, each 1-inch thick and approx. 3x5-inch, cut into chunks
Â¼ cup butter
Â½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in a 10 to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat; add onions and garlic and stir frequently until onions are limp and beginning to brown (don't let garlic burn), about six minutes. Pour into a glass 13-nine-two-inch baking dish and spread out evenly.
Top evenly with tomato slices, oregano and basil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. In a food processor, pulse together bread, butter and cheese until coarse crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over tomatoes. Bake until topping is golden brown and juices bubble, 20-25 minutes. Cool for five minutes before serving.