Love These Fresh Tomatoes!

Love These Fresh Tomatoes!

Right now is the best time to get the juiciest, ripest tomatoes you’ll find all year. Here’s how to make the most of this sweet and savory summer staple.

They come in all shapes and sizes (and colors too), and this time of year, tomatoes are at their height of delicious, pure, ripe flavor.

Pro-chef tip: if you can find vine-ripened tomatoes, go for them. These tomatoes are actually picked not when they’re completely ripe but just as they are beginning to blush or change color. They have the best taste because they’re picked at just the right time, explains Dan Kish, head chef at Panera Bread. “The term is a bit of a misnomer,” he says, because the truth is that if tomatoes were allowed to ripen fully, they’d never make it to market without ending up mushy and overripe. If picked too soon, however, they may not ripen properly. Panera prides itself on serving the best-available tomatoes, and that means partnering with growers who harvest at exactly the right moment. Whether sliced into a Greek or Classic Salad or layered onto a Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT sandwich, vine-ripened tomatoes are among the true flavor stars on our menu.

Never chill a fresh tomato, because chilling halts the ripening process. Ever notice how the tomatoes in Panera’s salads and sandwiches are naturally sweet and loaded with summertime flavor? That’s because the tomatoes Panera buys are kept at a range of 50-60°F while in transit from farm to bakery-cafe, explains Kish, a practice that lets nature do what nature is supposed to do—naturally!

At home when using tomatoes, keep it simple, says Kish. “This is the time of year when farm-fresh ingredients are best served with as little fuss as possible.” For the best-tasting tomatoes, shop local farmers’ markets and keep the fruits at room temperature. Store them stem side up on the counter out of direct sunlight.

Try any or all of these easy, tomato-fueled ideas:

  • Stack tomato slices and grilled vegetables on thick pieces of multigrain toast. Drizzle with olive oil and red-wine or balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve open-faced.
  • Toss diced tomatoes, diced avocado, and fresh corn kernels with chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper, olive oil, and a dash of white champagne vinegar.
  • Chop fresh tomatoes and toss them with cooled bow tie pasta. Add chopped fresh basil, sea salt, and freshly grated lemon zest. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice and serve at room temperature.
  • Layer alternating slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, top with basil leaves, and drizzle with a balsamic glaze for a delicious Caprese salad.