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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Stedjan

Top Tomato Picks: My favorite types and simple recipes to go along with them

Yay! We are full steam ahead into the late summer season and you know what that means?...It's peak tomato season. Backyard gardens are bursting with colors full of warmth and brightness. Produce department store shelves are stocked to the brim with every kind of tomatoes imaginable because farmers have been jubilantly picking away at their abduant crops.

There is nothing quite like the smell of a freshly picked garden tomato. That earthy aromatic glorious smell... the distinct sweet green fragrance emitted by the green leaves...there's nothing else like it. Takes me back to when I was younger and my mom kept a tomato garden on the side of our house that, by late summer, the green thick stems, all tangled and mangled into each other, would climb the side of our cozy sidehall colonial's brick wall. Hunting for the perfect red tomato was like an adventure when I was a kid. I would be happy to go out back with the large round, shallow wicker basket and attempt to fill it up with bright juicy tomato goodness. I wish we could have a garden where I live right now, but the deer make it extremely a few years ago my husband and I raised our white flag and surrendered.

There are definitely an abundance of different types of tomatoes. You really can't go wrong with many of them, but here are some of my top picks and quick recipes to go along with them.

Grape Tomatoes - probably on of the my versatile in my opinion. They are sweet, small and have a juicy burst when you pop them in your mouth right off the vine on right out of a crate. These tomatoes find themselves as part of many crudité platters for that reason. You can also quickly skewer them with some Ciliegine or Bocconcini mozzarella for a deliciously quick appetizer. You can't go wrong with Caprese Skewers if you are having a last minute get together. Sticking with the Caprese theme, halve your grape tomatoes and your Bocconcini toss them in a bowl with some fresh torn basil leaves, a sprinkle of kosher salt, some freshly ground black pepper and good extra virgin olive. Use this to top chicken/pork/veal cutlets or put on top of portioned pieces of salmon before baking in the oven.

One summer I had an abundance of grape tomatoes and I didnt want them to go bad, so I tossed them on a sheet pan with some salt, pepper and olive oil, wrapped a whole head of garlic (top cut off) in aluminum foil and slowly roasted them in the oven. I scrapped everything into a sauce pan and added some white wine, chicken stock a pat of butter some halved Cerginola olives and whole basil leaves and boom.. Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato and Garlic Sauce. It was the most fresh and delicious pasta sauce I had had in a very long time, and it was reminiscent of this small restaurant my husband and I had eaten at when we visited the Fingers Lakes a few years back.

Plum Tomatoes - these guys are also known as the processing tomato. They make the best fresh marinara sauce or even a roasted tomato soup and their meatiness, if you will, lends itself as an add-on in many dips and spreads. Although plum tomatoes may not be the star of the show kind of tomato, I can't imagine either of these awesome dips without them in it! Like my insanely refreshing and ceviche-esque Shrimp Salsa or a crowd favorite at almost any time of Game Day Gauc!!

Beefsteak and Heirloom Tomatoes - These are the fresh, juicy, plump tomatoes that you can honestly sprinkle some sea salt on and bite into like an apple and call it a day, but I digress. Slice either of these babies up and make a platter of fresh mozzarella with prosciutto on top, or even the fresh mozzarella with the tomatoes on top of a pile of baby arugula! Heirlooms make a great presentation platter by themselves with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Place a nice size burrata in the center of them if you really want to bump up things a notch. I just recently blistered some cubanelle peppers and

topped them with fresh beefsteak tomato slices. Some ciabatta on the side, and that is a meal for me! Try that one on a meatless Monday! To start, take about 8-10 cubanelle peppers and some long dark green chilé peppers as well if you want some spice. Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan over medium-high heat and sauté the peppers, trying occasionally and covering them in between, until they soften and start to brown and blister on the skin, this takes about 10-15 minutes. Season with some kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slice up your choice of tomatoes on top and.....ENJOY!!

Whatever way you slice it, tomato season is definitely something to enjoy! Stewed, made into sauce, blistered in a pan, roasted in the oven, sliced on top of just about anything, marinated in extra virgin olive oil... the options are endless, unlike the summer unfortunately. I hope you are all healthy and well as we start this interesting school year.

May your coffees be strong, your patience by great and your wine be chilled. Love you all!

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