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10 easy ways to use summer tomatoes

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You know how when you're going through a dry spell and you can't get a fella to look your way no matter how good a hair day you're having? And then, suddenly, you're in a relationship with the love of your life, and now guys are slipping their number into your shoes as you wait for the bus? Tomato season is that. It's more than you can possibly have, all at once. It's almost embarrassing its so prolific, and then bang — one day they're all gone and it's dry spell once again. 

Well, we've never been ones to look gift horses in the mouth, so when nature giveth, we taketh. Here are 10 easy ways to use all of those tomatoes, so easy you have no excuses not to eat them for every meal. Tomato season is elusive as a good hair day. Embrace it now, because a strong wind is nigh and will invariably come and blow it all away. 

Tomato Sugo

Sugo is arguably the easiest tomato sauce to make. Blanch and peel your tomatoes. (This means put them into boiling water for about a minute and then plunge them into ice cold water. The skins will come right off). Saute a little garlic and onion in olive oil. Crush the tomatoes with your hands into the pan. Let it all simmer that way for a half hour. Add a glug of red wine, some crushed basil from your garden, and a pinch each of sugar and salt. And red pepper if you feel like it. Now gloat, and spoon it over handmade gnocchi. (Consult your Italian grandma for that recipe). 

Tomato Jam

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Tomato jam is sweeter and stickier than tomato sauce and therefore more irresistible. Blanch and peel your tomatoes (see above). Put them in a pan with 1/3 the amount of sugar to the amount of tomatoes you are using (3 parts tomato to 1 part sugar). Squeeze in a lime or a lemon. Add a pinch of salt. Simmer until it looks like jam. Serve over pasta, spread on bread, dip veggies into it. Eat it with a spoon. 

Charred Tomatoes 

Fire up the grill. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Salt and pepper them. Place face down on a grill and fire those bitches up until they start to get fragrant and blackened and begin to break down. Let some extra virgin olive oil flow over the tops, and serve them just like this next to a bunch of crusty bread that you've treated the same way. Or coarsely chop them, put them in a bowl, pour olive oil and balsamic over all of that, and crown it with a handful of arugula. Bang. Salad (crusty bread and a Parmesan cracker go a long way here, too). 

Bloody Mary Shots 

Now is about the only time you'll get tomatoes juicy enough to make a bloody Mary mix with fresh fruit. Once you've done that, serve little shots (oyster optional — not my bag but you do what feels right for you) on a mezzo plate like this one. Watch your company's eyes light up and watch how they'll never want to leave. Kick them out, eventually, and drink the rest of the bloodies all by yourself once they're gone.

Here's a simple recipe compliments of mixologist Trish Gavin, of Il Foro:

1 quart tomato juice (if you're using fresh, first blanch, peel, puree, and strain your tomatoes) 

2 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz fresh lemon juice

2 oz Worcestershire sauce

1/2 t. ground horseradish

1/2 t.t pepper

dash celery salt

3 dashes tabasco

Baked Tomato with Chèvre 

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Take that sweet tomato sugo you've already made and put it into a crock. Place dollops of chèvre all over it and bake it in the oven. (You can probably do this on the grill, too, if you're careful — put it on the low heat side so your crock doesn't crack. Nobody likes crock shards in their sugo.) If you're extra fancy, garnish with a spoonful of pesto. Serve it all next to crusty bread, natch. 

Pickled Tomatoes 

Sounds strange, tastes great. The people over at Surly have gone bananas with pickled tomatoes, tossing them into everything from Panzanella to wedge salad to roasted beets. I can see why. This trick kinda makes everything better — little pops of sweet, tangy, piquant "surprise!" in every few bites. Use your beloved pickling recipe — I'm not going to give you mine. And then put them in everything. 

Nicoise Salad

Some of tomatoes' finest bedfellows are tuna, haricot verts, hard cooked eggs, and a good old mustard vinaigrette. To be fancy: Sear fresh tuna instead of canned (though canned works nicely too, so long as you spring for the good, imported, oil-packed can that practically costs as much as a fresh filet, so you decide) and put champagne vinegar in the vinaigrette. Find some tarragon and chervil for garnish. This is good eating. 

Pico de Gallo

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Easiest (and in the running for most delicious) thing in the world. Dice ripe tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and chile together in a wee bowl. Squeeze lime over the top and sprinkle with salt. Do as I do and dice avocado over it, too, then cook some eggs properly and put some grilled tortillas next to it. Be grateful you're alive. It's tomato season! 

Mozzarella Salad 

Leave cherry tomatoes whole and toss them together with baby mozz balls. Repeat after me: balsamic and olive oil and fresh herbs makes everything better. Put all this in the bowl. Stir it up. There is no way to screw this up, and it's easily the very best dish at the barbecue. 

Pizza 

Good tomatoes are the very best excuse to make pizza. If you're a purist, you can bust out the yeast and and the pizza peel and all that gear, or just find a piece of flatbread, put some pesto and mozz on it, sprinkle with halved cherry tomatoes, and call it good. Tomato season makes life so much easier. 

Or, do yourself the most obvious, the easiest, and most beautiful favor by picking a tomato off the vine, slicing into it with your pocket knife (you have one of those right?), and going at it right there in the garden. Obviously, you gotta pull your salt shaker out of your other pocket— the one that doesn't have the pocket knife in it. So yeah, you gotta arm yourself with some tools. But this is a cool thing to do. Have at it.

Happy summer. Happy tomato season.