For a cook, one of the most exciting things about summer is the arrival of heirloom tomatoes. They come in a dazzling array of shapes, colors, sizes, and of course, flavors. If you haven't tasted heirloom tomatoes before, they may come as a surprise. Some taste particularly meaty, with a smoky, almost savory flavor, while others are sweet like tropical fruit. And while many varieties are beautiful to look at, some, like the Cherokee Purple, might give buyers pause, with their irregularly shaped and sized specimens that are, well, to put it bluntly, a bit ugly. But there's an unofficial saying among heirloom tomato fanatics: The uglier the tomato, the better.
Once solely the province of farmers' markets, heirloom tomatoes can now also be found easily in many supermarkets and grocery stores. But just like when shopping for "regular" tomatoes, though, the freshest and most flavorful specimens are still to be found at the farmers' market, and if you can grow your own, that's even better.
If you're like us, the first batch of heirlooms that you bring into the kitchen is going to be meant just for eating. No olive oil, no salt, no dressing, just enjoyed on its own as a fruit. An heirloom tomato is the tomato that reminds you that it is in fact a fruit, because eating one that way, whole, is one of the most delicious things you can experience.
But after you've tasted a few different varieties and admired each of their distinct flavors, the question inevitably arises: What else can I do with them?
That's why we've rounded up some of our best heirloom tomato recipes for the summer. There are plenty of salads, to be sure, like Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox's excellent Heirloom Tomato and Wheat Berry Salad Recipe, and an Heirloom Tomato Caprese that had to make the list. But it's not just about salads; Miriam Rubin, author of TOMATOES, created a Crispy-Crumbed Baked Tomatoes with Pecans and Parmesan that's delicious with store-bought regular tomatoes, but even better with some fresh heirlooms. To see what else caught our eye, don't miss out on the slideshow.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.