The pick of the crop: Tomatoes

Use up your crop of tomatoes, which partner perfectly with herbs such as basil, cheese 
and balsamic vinegar

The pick of the crop: Tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes
Allow 2 tomatoes per person. Halve 8 ripe tomatoes across the middle horizontally and scoop out the flesh, seeds and any liquid. Stuff them with a mixture of cream cheese, finely chopped olives and basil leaves, or cooked rice, quinoa or couscous mixed with finely chopped pistachios and raisins. Great for a light lunch with salad. Serves 4.

Panzanella
Lightly toast 6 pitta breads, then break them into pieces. Meanwhile, roughly chop 450g tomatoes (preferably mixed colours and sizes), retaining the seeds, flesh and juices. Mix the juices with the pitta bread and put to one side to allow the bread to soak these up. After 15 minutes, combine the chopped tomatoes and soaked pitta bread with whatever you have to hand: olives, chopped herbs, cucumber, fennel and peppers. Dress lightly with home-made vinaigrette to serve. Serves 3-4.

Bloody Mary
Pour 3-45ml vodka into a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Top up with good quality tomato juice, 
8-12 drops Tabasco sauce (if you like it fiery, add more!), 1 tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp lemon juice and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Give it a good stir. Garnish with a stick of celery. You can vary the amounts of Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice according to taste. Some people also add horseradish. Either way, it's a great way to cure a hangover!

Grilled halloumi, tomato and mint salad
Slice a pack of halloumi cheese, wiping the cheese dry with kitchen paper. Dip each slice into a little seasoned flour then fry over a medium heat in 
1-2 tbsp oil until the outside of the cheese is golden brown and a little crusty. Meanwhile, finely shred 
2 tbsp mint leaves (or basil or parsley) and finely chop 4 large, ripe tomatoes. Mix the tomatoes and mint with 1 tbsp oil then divide between two plates. Add the warm halloumi slices on top and scatter over a few capers and a mint leaf to garnish. Serves 2, with hot pitta bread.

Bruschetta
Quality ingredients are key here. Use a rustic loaf, such as crusty sourdough, pain de campagne or ciabatta, if possible, and toast 4 thick slices lightly on both sides. Rub one side with a halved garlic clove. In a bowl, combine 300g finely diced and drained tomatoes (some purists remove the seeds, but this is optional), 4 shredded basil leaves, 2 tbsp good quality olive oil, and salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar too, to bring out the tomatoes' natural sweetness. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the bread and serve immediately. Serves 4.

North African eggs (chakchouka)
Deseed and slice 1 large red or green pepper, chop 
4 large ripe tomatoes and thinly slice 1 onion. Heat 
2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and when hot, add the prepared vegetables and cook over a medium heat until softened but not browned. If you like heat, add ½ tsp harissa paste to the mix and stir in. Crack 4 eggs into the pan and stir them around a bit until lightly scrambled. Serves 2, with crusty bread.

Tomato soup with basil purée
Halve 1kg ripe tomatoes and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and roast at 220C/fan 200C/gas 6 for about 30 minutes or until softened. Meanwhile, heat 50g butter in large pan, add 350g finely chopped onions and sweat over a low heat until soft. Add 500ml vegetable stock to the onions and the roasted tomatoes. Blitz the whole lot in a blender until smooth. Then blitz a large bunch of fresh basil leaves with 3 tbsp olive oil and seasoning, until you have a purée. Stir a little of the purée into the finished soup. Serves 4, hot or chilled.

Mezze plate
Roast 8 ripe plum tomatoes, halved, then blanch 8-12 asparagus spears and 225g broad beans. Arrange 4 tomato halves on each plate with 
2-3 blanched asparagus spears, a handful of black olives, a generous 2 tbsp hummus, a handful of soft salad leaves and a handful of blanched broad beans, skins removed. Drizzle lemony vinaigrette over to serve. Serves 2.

Tomato and pesto pittas
Carefully slice open 2 lightly toasted pitta breads so that you have pockets. Smear a very small amount of green pesto on the inside (it has a strong flavour, so a little goes a long way!). Halve 150g cherry or pomodorino tomatoes, preferably mixed varieties, finely chop 1 small red onion and chop 100g firm tofu then mix together in a bowl. Make a dressing with 1 tbsp red wine vinegar and 3 tbsp olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Mix the dressing with the tomato mixture and fill the pittas. Eat immediately. Serves 2.

Tomato quesadillas
Take 4 soft flour tortillas and heat them, one at a time, in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. After a minute or so, spread the tortilla with a handful of grated vegetarian Cheddar or other hard cheese, and finely chopped fresh tomatoes. If you like, you can add chopped olives and jalapeño peppers, too. Top with another tortilla and carefully turn the whole lot over so that the tortilla on top toasts lightly. Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 2.

Factfile

Tomatoes need sunshine if their full flavour is to develop. Choose the reddest, ripest specimens you can find for plenty of taste and colour, as well as optimum nutritional benefit, which includes vitamin C, antioxidants and lycopene. In many cases, it's fine 
to leave the skin on for extra fibre, but if a recipe specifies skinning them, simply 
make a cross in the top of the tomato with a knife, then pour boiling water over 
them for 1 minute. You should find that the skins then slip off 
easily – but don't burn yourself when removing them!

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