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Step away from the salad bowl: 3 livelier ways to enjoy August tomatoes

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Step away from the salad bowl: 3 livelier ways to enjoy August tomatoes

We love a good caprese salad, but oil and vinegar aren't the only ways to celebrate height-of-the-season tomatoes. From brunch-friendly gravy to elegant molded appetizers, the Southern food canon is full of recipes and tricks for making the most of summer's favorite nightshade. 

Once you've used up every ripe tomato you can find, take comfort in the fact that we've also got you covered when it comes to green tomatoes still left on the vine. Here are three of our most unusual (and delicious) ways to eat tomatoes:

Creamy Tomato Gravy
Step aside sawmill gravy — we've got a better biscuit topper for your late-summer brunches. Tomato gravy has all of the creamy, rich goodness of its sausage-filled cousin, but it gets a tangy boost from ripe tomatoes and a hefty dose of fresh garlic. And while you can make this gravy with canned tomatoes, it is at its best this time of year, when fresh heirlooms are practically bursting with their sweet juices. Tomato gravy is traditionally made with bacon grease or other pan-drippings, but you can also make it with butter if that's what you've got on hand (or if you're feeding vegetarians). Even better news: this pink-hued gravy is also tasty on fried chicken, pork chops or even just a bowl of rice, making it one of the most versatile Southern sauces you can master.
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Tomato Aspic
Don't wince. As old-fashioned and stuffy as it may sound, aspics (and tomato aspics, specifically) make for elegant, tasty appetizers when they're done right. Our tomato aspic recipe is one such dish. Made with a base of tomato juice and brightened up with lemon, garlic and a mix of pantry-friendly dried herbs, this molded twist on tomato soup would be a perfect starter course at an elegant August dinner party. Get home cook bonus points by making your own tomato juice to use in the dish: Chop about 4 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes and combine with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture looks like chunky soup, about 30 minutes, and then press it all through a food mill or mesh strainer. Let the juice cool and it's ready to use.
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Cast Iron Grilled Corvina with Green Tomato Salsa Verde
Green tomatoes are a fact of tomato-growing life. Whether your tomato crop growing operation gets halted due to an early freeze or simply some rouge squirrels, there's always plenty of green tomatoes to eat at the end of the summer. After you've had your fill of fried greeen tomatoes, give this piquant salsa verde a try. In it, sliced green tomatoes and poblano peppers take a trip on a hot grill before being blended up with a few handfuls of herbs, lemon juice, garlic, shallots and the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find. We like to serve the salsa verde wtih grilled fish but it would also make a great accompaniment to roasted or grilled chicken and crisp-fried shrimp.
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Kate Williams is the former editor-in-chief of Southern Kitchen. She was also the on-air personality on our podcast, Sunday Supper. She's worked in food since 2009, including a two-year stint at America’s Test Kitchen. Kate has been a personal chef, recipe developer, the food editor at a hyperlocal news site in Berkeley and a freelance writer for publications such as Serious Eats, Anova Culinary, The Cook’s Cook and Berkeleyside. Kate is also an avid rock climber and occasionally dabbles in long-distance running. She makes a mean peach pie and likes her bourbon neat.