10 Ways with Heirloom Tomatoes

As an annual treat, I buy a big (3kg) box of tomatoes from the Tomato Stall on the Isle of Wight. These tomatoes are on another level from anything you can find in the supermarket – meaty, sweet, firm and absolutely beautiful. Frankly, if it’s between these or a bunch of flowers I’d take the tomatoes any day.

Because refrigerating tomatoes is the quickest way to destroy their flavour and texture, these babies get to sit on my kitchen counter, soaking up the sun and summer heat, until their moment comes. It also means I need to eat them with some degree of urgency.

In the spirit of true and honest tomato journalism, I documented every tomato-eating event to give an accurate assessment of just how versatile and delicious they were. In total it took about 10 days of fairly aggressive tomato consumption to use the box. Here’s what I did with them.

  1. One Pan Chicken, Chorizo, Tomato and Potato Dinner

Tomatoes provide a necessary hit of fresh, sweet acidity against the rich chorizo, crispy chicken and waxy potato. Simply parboil some new potatoes until almost cooked, then let drain until dry. Season some skin-on chicken breasts (or chicken supremes, for bonus wing-gnawing action) and sear, skin-side down in a little olive oil. Flip the chicken, then tumble in tomatoes, parboiled potatoes, minced garlic and slices of chorizo. Roast in a hot-ish oven for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked, then finish with green olives and parsley.

  1. Heirloom Tomato Salad

The simplest, and arguably best, to way to display the beauty and variety offered by these fruits is to make a very simple salad. Halve the smallest ones, slice the larger ones and cut the mediums into wedges. Drizzle over best quality olive oil and a generous pinch of flaked sea salt and a grinding of pepper. We ate this salad with some cold roast beef and salsa verde for a refreshing summer Sunday lunch.

If you’d like to dress it up a little, this heirloom tomato salad, with basil and balsamic, is about as complicated as I’d want to get with tomatoes as beautiful as these.

  1. Yellow Tomato and Aubergine Curry

Slightly less photogenic though no less delicious, was a yellow tomato and aubergine curry I threw together one evening. I kept it very simple with onion, garlic, curry paste, chunks of yellow tomato and aubergine, and then a swirl of cream at the end.

  1. Toasted Tomato Sandwich

The largest tomato (bottom right, first photo) was so substantial it featured in three separate meals. The size of an entire slice of bread, I couldn’t resist sandwiching a thick slice between two pieces of toast. With a thin swipe of mayo and a heavy pinch of salt, it’s a substantial offering that eats like a meal.

  1. Cheesy Chicken Burger

This chicken cheeseburger with crispy potato wedges was irresistibly good. All I did was pound out a chicken breast until it was about half as thick, cut into two pieces, then season and pan fry until cooked. I draped over a slice of cheese at the last minute, then piled up the two pieces of cheesy chicken on a toasted burger bun with mayo, lettuce, and a huge slice of tomato. A quick and easy weeknight treat.

For another kick-ass weeknight dinner, this mango, avocado and tomato salsa to go with glazed salmon is a total winner.

  1. Table Decoration

You’ve seen vases filled with lemons and limes. In a similar vein, tomatoes as beautiful as these make a spectacular edible centrepiece. Costs less than a big bunch of flowers, and you can eat them afterwards! Gently pile tomatoes into shallow vases, or simply drape vines of them straight onto the table, artfully layering and piling them up generously. Rustic, but stylish.

I also love the idea of nestling tomatoes – on the vine or otherwise, but always whole – among a suite of antipasti, right down the length of a table. Unroll a huge sheet of parchment paper down the centre like a table runner, then fill with ribbons of prosciutto, small bowls of olives, slaps of salami, ripe wedges of melon, shards of parmesan, coins of cured sausage, wedges of cheese – you get the idea. You’d need quite the crowd of people to carry it off, but what a way to kick off a party!

  1. Greek Salad

You don’t need me to tell you Greek salad is a classic accompaniment to barbequed meats. A regular dinner mainstay throughout summer, I often throw one together for lunch, too, with a bit of pita to soak up the juices. You don’t really need a recipe – just pile in ripe tomatoes, cucumber, olives, thinly sliced red onion and feta cheese. Shake over a little oregano, drizzle over some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

If you’re looking for a salad that offers a little more in the way of sustenance, Greek pasta salad will certainly keep you going. Nice leftover the next day, too.

  1. Tomato Bruschetta

When the tomatoes are ripe and fragrant I see no need to mess with them. Pile diced fresh tomato, tossed with a little olive oil and seasoning, on top of rustic toasts rubbed with a little garlic. Basil and parmesan are nice optional extras.

If your tomatoes are looking a little overripe, this bruschetta is ideal. One of my all-time faves.

  1. Tomatoes with Maldon Salt

You’d think I would be getting tired of tomatoes, but no. My favourite snack when in supply of these beauties is to slice them into wedges and eat simply with a heavy sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. There is no snack more refreshing (or easier on the waistline!).

  1. Tuscan Bread Salad

Last but by no means least, Tuscan bread salad is the ultimate summer dinner. It’s ideal even if your tomatoes are getting a little past their best – naturally, as the salad is intended to use up slightly old ingredients, like stale bread. Serve with roast chicken.

I hope this series of suggestions gives you a bit of inspiration when you next wander past an eye-catching display of tomatoes!

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