In these late summer months, when gardens and green markets are bursting with juicy options, it’s time to eat every gorgeous tomato that comes your way. Here, America’s star chefs seize the all-too-brief moment with four easy, crowd-pleasing recipes that require minimal kitchen time—so you can keep playing outside 'til sundown.
1. Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes with Cous Cous, Peas, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cucumbers, and Tzatziki
In New Orleans, rising chef and recent James Beard Award winner Alon Shaya works both sides of the Mediterranean, serving classic Italian food at Domenica and Pizza Domenica, and modern Israeli cuisine at Shaya. His stuffed tomatoes are “like a beautiful salad but done in an even more impressive way,” he says. Make the couscous mixture a day ahead, but scoop out tomatoes at the last moment, saving the insides in a freezer bag to make pasta sauce or chilled tomato soup.
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup baby green peas
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups chanterelle mushrooms (about 4 oz)
4 large ripe heirloom tomatoes
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup plain yogurt (non Greek)
½ cup finely diced cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped dill, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp ground dill seed
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the couscous:
In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Stir in couscous and salt. Reduce heat to moderate; cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain well. Transfer couscous to a medium bowl; stir in olive oil and let cool.
For the vegetables:
1. In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup water to a boil over high heat. Add peas, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until tender and bright, about 4 minutes. Drain peas and add to couscous.
2. In a medium skillet, heat vegetable oil. Add mushrooms; cook over moderately high heat until golden brown and softened, about 8 minutes.
3. Cut the top ½ inch off the tomatoes; scoop out centers. Season insides with salt; set aside.
For the tzatziki:
In a large bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and dill seed. Add salt and pepper; stir to combine.
1. Fold couscous, peas, and mushrooms into tzatziki.
2. Spoon couscous tzatziki into each tomato. Garnish with dill and serve.
2. Spaghetti with Toasted Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ricotta Salata
“Cherry tomatoes in the summertime are so juicy and sweet, you almost don’t have to do anything to them,” says N.Y.C. superchef Andrew Carmellini, known for his celebrated fleet of sumptuous and season-inspired restaurants, including pasta-centric Bar Primi. Tossed with lemon zest (“it cuts through the creaminess of the butter and cheese perfectly”) and only slightly cooked-down tomatoes, his dazzlingly fresh and simple spaghetti is “the perfect dish to serve outside with a glass of rosé.” For an even more delicate version, make it with the skinnier spaghettini noodle, and be careful not to overcook it.
Total time: 30 minutes
¾ lb dried spaghetti
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped basil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
½ tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 oz ricotta salata, shaved
1. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain well, reserving 1 cup of the water to use later.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter in olive oil over moderately low heat. Add garlic and ½ teaspoon salt; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is softened, 3–4 minutes (do not brown). Remove from heat.
3. Add pasta to garlic oil; toss to coat over moderately low heat. Add cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil, Parmesan, and crushed red pepper; toss quickly to combine and heat through, about 30 seconds. If pasta looks dry, add some of the reserved pasta water. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Toss well and season with salt and pepper.
4. Transfer to a large serving dish or individual bowls; top with ricotta salata.
3. Strawberry and Tomato Salad with Lemon Verbena
Alfred Portale, chef of N.Y.C.’s famed Gotham Bar and Grill, grew up in an Italian-American household, where dressing tomatoes with vinaigrette was de rigueur. But modern heirlooms are so full of flavor and subtlety, “I didn’t want to add lemon or vinegar to this dish,” he says. Instead, to impart just a hint of citrusy snap, Portale uses fresh verbena, capturing its “sweet, lemony perfume.” Likewise, aroma is key when choosing the best strawberries, says Portale. “Look for deep red ones with a rich scent.”
Total time: 20 minutes
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved (try the smaller, supersweet Tristar variety)
1 ripe heirloom tomato, cut into ½-inch wedges
1 Persian cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
8 lemon verbena leaves, cut into ribbons (or use fresh mint)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. In a bowl, combine the strawberries, tomato wedges, cucumber, red onion, and lemon verbena. Toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and serve.
4. Frankie’s Topping-For-Anything
Meet your new secret weapon for effortless summer cooking. “You can spoon this amazing mixture over tomatoes, pasta, fish, or meat,” says Frank Castronovo, who along with Frank Falcinelli helms N.Y.C.’s joyfully old-school Italian hot spots Frankies Spuntino, Frankies 457, and Frankies 570. Salty with capers and green olives and sprinkled with crushed red pepper, the topping is equally delicious whether served fresh or left overnight to marinate.
Total time: 20 minutes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, halved
2 tbsp brined capers, rinsed
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup loosely packed small basil leaves
¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
3 heirloom tomatoes (about 2 pounds), sliced thick
1. In a bowl, combine olive oil, olives, capers, onion, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper. Season with ¼ tsp sea salt and toss.
2. Arrange tomato slices on a platter; season with salt. Spoon olive toppings over tomatoes and serve.