Tomatoes love the heat, and right now it seems like hundreds of small, homegrown cherry tomatoes, bursting with flavor and aroma, are growing before our eyes each day. (At least it seems like hundreds when you’re the kid picking them!)
Who doesn’t love layering a thick slice of beefsteak tomato, dripping with its seeds and juice, onto a grilled hamburger at a barbecue? More than appealing, it’s sensuous. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. A slice of tomato fits perfectly over the hamburger. Add a large slice of onion for the ultimate experience.
I’ve written about my Poppa’s big, ugly heirloom tomatoes in other posts. Even the leaves impart a scent on your hands when you pick them, and the aroma is almost sensuous. My New York childhood is loaded with such sweet memories.
If you are indeed fortunate enough to have an overabundance of tomatoes, you may be wondering what you should do you with them. This is a subject worthy of many discussions, and I will address it another in another post.
However, you may want to start with the Cosmo Salad, which is bursting with tomatoes. This dish is my favorite summertime memory. My second favorite is tomatoes with olive oil and red wine vinegar, seasoned with fresh oregano and slivers of Parmesan cheese, which I’d eat for lunchtime with Poppa under his grape trellis.
For the Cosmo Salad, you also need fresh mozzarella, which happens to be better when homemade. You can find the recipe in my book Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation. It’s simple, and as I’m fond of saying, a skill worth learning. Now is the perfect time to master cheese, yogurt, and butter making, and it’s easier than you might imagine.
Chef’s note: This salad transports well and doesn’t require refrigeration, making it a perfect dish to take along on a picnic. For a festive evening meal, serve alongside cold cuts such as black peppered ham, chicken, or turkey. And for the ultimate summer cocktail party, dress up a cheese board featuring at least three different cheeses (a good Stilton bleu, a smoked garlicky Gouda, and a sharp Provolone), assorted olives, and this Cosmo Salad. This is sure to be an evening meal extraordinaire.
3 cups grape or small cherry tomatoes
1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (or ¾-inch cubes if homemade)
¼ cup caramelized onions (optional, but worth it)
Homemade pesto or 1 (6 oz.) jar of basil (Genovese) pesto
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon sea salt, if necessary
- Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, and onions in a mixing bowl. Add pesto and toss lightly. Add black pepper to taste (I like more than a teaspoon), then add salt if necessary.
- Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Stir lightly. Add salt (tomatoes love salt) and serve alongside your favorite grilled meat or seafood.
Image from iStock/Diana Sklarova.