Tomatoes are not something to be taken for granted. While there are places in the world that can grow tomatoes year-round, outside in the natural, warm sunlight (re: most of Central America), most of us have to wait a good, long time for our tomatoes. Not the sort of red, sort of ripe, sort of flavorful store-bought variety, but the tomatoes that start cropping up in the farmers markets and roadside stands in late July after grown to peak perfection on a vine.
There are a myriad of uses for farm-fresh tomatoes.There is nothing better than slicing them into rounds, adorned sparingly with a little bit of good olive oil, salt and pepper, and a fresh herb. If you are feeling especially decadent, a little bit of shaved Manchego or fresh ricotta will transform the simple into sublime. You can never go wrong with fresh tomato wedges in a salad, a simple tomato sauce, or tossing a few cherry or grape tomatoes in a pan with garlic and leeks for a quick sauce for fish. And lest we not forget, a summer salsa of tomatoes mixed with onions, cilantro, jalapeños and lime juice is perfect for everything from breakfast to late afternoons spent with friends in backyards or rooftops.
I am particularly fond of the concentrated flavors that come with roasting tomatoes in an oven, causing their skins to burst, and their juices to flow. My preference for roasting is cherry tomatoes, or any other smaller variety, as I have found that the flavor of these smaller varieties only deepens when roasted. All they need is a bit of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper, and in the oven they go. After they have turned a deep reddish-brown, and the juices are sizzling, I toss them in the blender to release any subtle essence remaining.
To transform this indulgence into a refreshing soup that is light enough to eat well into the middle of August, simply add a dash of cumin, some lime juice and a drizzle of cilantro oil. If you are feeling industrious, you could freeze or can this summer soup for the long winter months. However, I find that there is something to be said for the anticipation of that first burst in July of tangy and tart tomato essence that makes your mouth curl at the edges with glee.