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The Only Way to Improve Upon Ripe Summer Tomatoes

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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.

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.

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Herb Baked Tomatoes

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Serves 4
  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes (heirloom are good, but any will work!)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

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.

Tags: tomatoes, baked tomatoes, summer side dish