Outdoor Entertaining

The Only Way to Improve Upon Ripe Summer Tomatoes

I didn't particularly like tomatoes until I went to college. It wasn't a full-fledged aversion (more of a disinterest), but growing up on a farm made it feel like a serious character flaw.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Every summer, our garden would be flooded with tomatoes. Vines, heavy with them, would tug at the wire hoops holding them up. You could pick cherry tomatoes for hours, filling up bowls and buckets and then your t-shirt as a makeshift bag, and still not make a dent.

My sisters and parents ate them by the handful, popping them like candy. The dinner table always had a platter of sliced raw tomatoes sprinkled with salt. Lunch was often toasted seedy bread, spread thickly with mayonnaise and topped with raw tomatoes. I begrudgingly ate them, but I never asked for seconds.

Photo by Posie Harwood

So you can imagine my relief when my palate changed and I started to love tomatoes, finally fulfilling my genetic destiny as a Harwood girl. Now I am my mother's daughter. I think there's nothing better than a bite from a raw, ripe tomato in the summer, juice dripping down your fingers.

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However, if you must do something besides eat them raw, I highly recommend these baked tomatoes. The perfect summer side dish, it preserves all the sweetness of a ripe summer tomato in the form of warm, cheesy comfort food. A golden cap of crunchy breadcrumbs, slick with olive oil, tops each tomato. Fresh parsley adds some green, and there's a kick of grainy mustard to add sharpness to it all.

Photo by Posie Harwood

I serve these as a side to nearly any main, but I can imagine eating them all summer with an array of other vegetables—snap pea salad with bacon, charred carrots with tahini, buttered corn on the cob, grilled portobello mushrooms, zucchini gratin—and calling it a very good meal.

Posie Harwood is a writer, photographer, and food stylist based in New York. You can read more of her writing here.

We all know what to do with perfect summer tomatoes—but what do you do with a less-than-perfect one? Tell us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mary Morea
    Mary Morea
  • Melissa McDowell
    Melissa McDowell
  • Hannah Nickerson
    Hannah Nickerson
  • amysarah
I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.


Mary M. August 5, 2016
Hi, I'm 74 and I grew up eating a variation of this since my childhood and I still make them, but we had it as a main course, with a slight variation. Minced garlic, salt and ground pepper to tast and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, topped with a good olive oil and baked in an oven until the tomatoes are very tender and start to let out their juices. We serve it as a side dish and for a main course, over your spaghetti of choice. No bread crumbs.
Melissa M. June 27, 2016
We've been getting about a dozen tomatoes a week from our garden and I've been searching high and low for new ways to eat them. Definitely trying this recipe tonight!
Hannah N. June 27, 2016
Love the idea of a little mustard!
amysarah June 26, 2016
Patricia Wells' simple baked stuffed tomatoes have been on continual rotation here for many summers - the heavy dose of garlic is key, and I often add Parmesan and fresh basil to the crumbs): http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3375-tomates-a-la-provencale-baked-tomatoes. (Intrigued by your including mustard.) Her Provencal roasted tomatoes are a little more work, but really delicious too: https://books.google.com/books?id=MB26DMZOv5UC&pg=PA113&lpg=PA113&dq=patricia+wells+provencal+roasted+tomatoes&source=bl&ots=LXSHPYoxeG&sig=ja_ms-u7UGHHkI8R0u-W-uH-cuE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwizuoTCk8bNAhUKeT4KHbH5C9UQ6AEINzAE#v=onepage&q=patricia%20wells%20provencal%20roasted%20tomatoes&f=false