We don’t care if they’re technically classified as fruits or vegetables — tomatoes are our favorite summer produce, bar none. Found in a variety of different sizes, shapes and colors, from massive red beefsteaks to elongated plums, delicate cherries and an endless selection of eye-catching heirlooms, they’re also especially versatile — which is why it’s hard to believe that until the 1900’s, tomatoes were believed to be poisonous!
The world is certainly better educated as to the wonders of tomatoes today. In fact, you’d be well advised to rise and shine at the crack of dawn to rush to the greenmarkets, before their stocks get picked over by New York’s regiment of tomato-loving chefs.
The Clocktower is only one of the restaurants currently making the most of tomatoes, exemplified in an inventive Tomato Salad, tricked out with tomato gelee, milky burrata, and a sprinkle of herbaceous basil granita. At their newest spot, The Ribbon, the Bromberg brothers are offering housemade twists of Cavatelli, interspersed with chunks of rotisserie chicken and seriously sweet cherry tomatoes. And it’s unsurprising to see tomatoes get their due at the all-vegetable eatery, Dirt Candy, in the form of an utterly original Tomato Cake, paired with smoked feta and a chewy length of tomato leather.
In Brooklyn, the perennially popular Roberta’s is showcasing terrifically tangy green tomatoes, in a salad strewn with “everything” croutons and shiso leaves and sprinkled with fish sauce, and cozy Bed Stuy newcomer, Eugene and Co., is offering heirloom green tomatoes too — Southern-fried, stacked, and drizzled with streams of buttermilk dressing. And since tomatoes and Italian cooking go hand in hand, they’re all over the sandwich menu at Frankie’s 457 Spuntino; from a classic Mozzarella, Tomato and Red Pepper sammy to a craveable BLT & Sicilian Tuna on pizza bianca, layered with tomatoes, arugula and spicy slices of red onion.
When it comes to selecting tomatoes for at-home use, look for fruit with bright colors and smooth skin. Ripe tomatoes will give a little to gentle pressure, but avoid tomatoes that are too soft and have obvious bruising. Never store your tomatoes in the refrigerator, or they’ll lose flavor and become mealy in texture. Instead, keep at room temperature, away from sunlight, with their stems side up to avoid bruising. Unripe tomatoes will continue to ripen at room temperature, so be sure to use within a few days.
Not like that should be the least bit difficult — remember when we said how incredibly versatile they are? Tomatoes can be incorporated in all manner of hot or cold preparations; sliced thickly and paired with mozzarella, basil and balsamic in a Caprese salad, chopped into salsa, cooked down into sauces, stirred into gazpacho, used to top pastas or bruschetta, brushed with olive oil and thrown on the grill, layered into a super summery ratatouille, or even — if you’re lucky enough to have grown them yourself — eaten whole, right off the vine!
5 Madison Ave., btwn. 23th & 24th St.
20 W 72nd St., btwn. W Central Park & Columbus Ave.
86 Allen St., btwn. Broome & Grand Sts.
261 Moore St., btwn. White & Bogart Sts.
Eugene and Co.
397 Tompkins Ave., btwn. Hancock St & Jefferson Ave.
457 Court St., btwn. 4th Pl & Luquer St.