5 dishes to showcase summer tomatoes

The best way to showcase the flavor of prime summer tomatoes is to cook them as minimally as possible, if at all. This grilled tomato pasta only warms the fruit. / Armando Rafael/The New York Times

Juicy, acidic and sun-warmed sweet, a perfect summer tomato is a blessing. (A less perfect tomato is fine, if a little dull; a wan out-of-season tomato is to be avoided.) I eat tomatoes every day in August, sometimes at every meal. That's why it's Tomato Week here at Five Weeknight Dishes, with recipes that feature tomatoes: I can hardly think of anything else.

Grated Tomato Pasta

It's tough to highlight peak summer tomatoes in pasta. To make the most out of their bright flavor, summer tomatoes should be minimally cooked. This recipe gently warms the fruit, so they keep their acidity and succulence. Since the tomato hasn't had the liquid cooked out, it doesn't cling to the spaghetti the way a cooked pomodoro would, but this keeps the dish light and bright and makes it perfect for a hot summer day. Be sure to serve with plenty of bread to sop up the cheesy sauce that is left behind at the bottom of the bowl. If juicy, ripe tomatoes aren't around, swap out for cherry tomatoes and blend them instead of grating to get a similar effect.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 40 minutes


12 ounces spaghetti (about 3/4 box)

4 large ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely grated

1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup basil leaves, plus more for garnish

Over high heat, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to the water, and boil 1 minute less than package instructions or until the spaghetti has a very tiny dry core when cut in half.

While the pasta cooks, trim the bottom of the tomatoes and core them. Using the large holes on the box grater, grate the trimmed side of the tomato into a large bowl until nothing but skins remain. Discard skins.

Transfer the pasta to a colander to drain, then return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, and cook, frequently stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the grated tomatoes, and season with a large pinch of salt. As soon as the mixture comes up to a simmer (about 3 minutes), turn off the heat and add the spaghetti and half the Parmesan. Stir vigorously until the spaghetti is coated in sauce and the Parmesan has melted.

Add the rest of the Parmesan and the basil leaves, and stir vigorously until the rest of the cheese has melted. Taste the sauce, and adjust with more salt as needed.

Divide among four bowls, spooning over any tomato liquid left in the pot. Top with more Parmesan and basil, and serve immediately.

— By Ham El-Waylly

Coconut Fish and Tomato Bake

A coconut-milk dressing infused with garlic, ginger, turmeric and lime coats fish fillets in this sheet-pan dinner. Accompanying the fish are bright bursts of tomatoes which turn jammy under the broiler and relinquish some of their juices to the pan sauce. This sauce is silky enough to coat a spoon and packed with flavor. It pairs well with anything from snapper to flounder and even salmon, so choose the fillets that look best at the market. You'll want to sop up the sauce with thick slices of grilled or toasted baguette, or spoon it over steamed rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes' marinating

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, scrubbed and finely grated

1 garlic clove, finely grated

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 tablespoon honey

Kosher salt

2 limes

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, such as snapper, haddock, striped bass, fluke, sablefish or salmon, skin on or off

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, ginger, garlic, turmeric, red-pepper flakes, honey and 1 teaspoon salt.

Zest and juice 1 lime directly into the coconut milk mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro. Add the fish fillets, and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Arrange another rack in the position closest to the broiler heat source. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the tomatoes on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and toss to coat. Place the marinated fish between the tomatoes, and spoon all the marinade from the bowl over the fish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the fish. Transfer the pan to the lower-middle rack, and roast until the surface of the fish is opaque but the center is not cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish. The fish should not flake easily with a fork. Remove the pan from the oven, and heat the broiler to high.

Move the pan to the broiler and finish cooking, rotating the pan once, until the fish is tender and the tomatoes are just beginning to brown in spots, 5 to 6 minutes, depending on thickness of the fish. Slice the remaining lime into wedges.

Divide the tomatoes and fish among dishes, and tip the pan juices over the fish. Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, and serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

— By Yewande Komolafe

Grilled Chicken With Tomatoes and Corn

  photo  Ali Slagle is forever looking for ways to make simple cooking even simpler, such as this grilled chicken dish made with tomatoes and corn. / Bryan Gardner/The New York Times

While you could rest grilled chicken on a cutting board to ensure the juices don't run out of the meat when it's sliced, a more delicious option is to place the chicken on a pile of tomatoes, corn and red onion. The seasoned drippings act as a no-effort warm dressing, bolstering the flavor of the vegetables and softening their raw edges. Before grilling, the chicken is rubbed with chili powder, the spice mix that typically includes dried oregano, garlic, onion, cumin and ground chilies, for complex flavor with minimal effort. Fresh oregano, while optional, emphasizes the herbs in the chili powder. Use this technique of resting grilled proteins on fresh produce for many summer dinners: pork chops on peaches, steak on chopped scallions and ginger, sausages on radicchio and halloumi on citrus.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the grill grates

1 tablespoon chili powder

Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)

1 1/2 pounds large ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 ear of corn, kernels cut from the cob (about 1 cup kernels)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (optional)

Heat the grill to medium-high. In a medium bowl, coat the chicken with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside. (You can do this step up to 1 day ahead; refrigerate and bring to room temperature before cooking.)

On a large platter, layer the tomatoes, corn kernels, red onion and fresh oregano (if using). Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

When ready to grill, clean the grates with a grill brush, then lightly grease the grates. Grill the chicken until browned and cooked through and it releases easily from the grates, 5 to 7 minutes per side. (If flare-ups occur, move the chicken to an area of the grill with smaller flames underneath. For a gas grill, close the lid between flips, listening and peeking occasionally for flare-ups.)

Transfer the chicken to the platter. Let rest for 5 to 20 minutes before serving.

— By Ali Slagle

Basil and Tomato Fried Rice

  photo  Tomatoes and rice are a combination you see across cuisines, but not in quite the way Hetty Lui McKinnon cooks with them here. / Bryan Gardner/The New York Times)

Summer's dynamic duo of tomato and basil make a surprising appearance in this aromatic fried rice. The tomatoes cook down slightly and become sweeter, coating the rice in their vibrant, sun-kissed juices, while basil adds a peppery perfume. This recipe is very adaptable, so make it your own. Use any tomato variety you like. Add more or less basil, or use Thai or holy basil in its place for even bolder flavors. If you want more heat, leave the seeds in the chilies. Finally, for a fresh element, serve with cucumber slices and a lime wedge on the side.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes

4 eggs

Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and black pepper

Neutral oil, such as canola or vegetable oil

1 yellow onion, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 to 2 bird's-eye chilies (or other hot chilies), deseeded and finely chopped

2 pounds firm, ripe large or cherry tomatoes (see tip), cut into 3/4-inch wedges if using large tomatoes

5 to 6 cups cooked leftover rice, preferably jasmine

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 cups tightly packed basil leaves

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Heat a large wok or 12-inch well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil, then pour in the beaten egg. Cook for 15 to 30 seconds, allowing the bottom to set slightly, before stirring and turning until just set. Break up the egg slightly, then remove from the wok and set aside.

Heat the wok over high. Add 2 tablespoons of oil, along with the onions, and stir-fry for 1 minute, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and bird's-eye chilies, and stir for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Next, add the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, tossing every now and then, until the tomatoes are softened. (Reduce heat to medium-high if it starts getting too smoky or the garlic begins to scorch.)

Add the rice, soy sauce and half the basil, and season with 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt, to taste. Reduce heat to medium-high, and stir-fry for 5 to 6 minutes, allowing the rice to soak up the tomato juices. As the liquid cooks off, the rice will char (although less so if using a nonstick pan) and develop some smoky flavors.

Add the egg and remaining basil, and toss for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and check seasonings, adding some black pepper and more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

Tip: If using cherry tomatoes, cut up 5 or 6 of them to add moisture during cooking. The rest can be added whole, as they will burst during the latter part of cooking.

— By Hetty Lui McKinnon

Spiced Ginger Shrimp With Burst Tomatoes

  photo  Spiced ginger shrimp with burst tomatoes. This tomato-laden twist on shrimp scampi comes from Melissa Clark, who uses Sungold tomatoes, a vivid orange variety of cherry tomato that is particularly sweet. / David Malosh/The New York Times

This speedy, buttery, one-pan meal stars plump, spiced shrimp zipped up with grated fresh ginger and sweetened with ripe Sungold tomatoes that burst in the skillet. You can use any aromatic spice mix you have on hand here, which makes it a highly convenient meal as well. Serve this over rice or with crusty bread for mopping up all those rich, jammy tomatoes.

Yield: 2 to 3 servings

Total time: 20 minutes

About 1 1/2 teaspoons aromatic spice blend, such as garam masala, Baharat, five-spice, curry powder or a mild chili powder blend (see tip), plus more to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated

3 scallions, thinly sliced, greens and whites separated

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup small (or halved large) cherry tomatoes, preferably yellow Sungold tomatoes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn or roughly chopped

In a medium bowl, combine spice blend, ginger, garlic, scallion whites, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add shrimp, and toss well. Heat a large skillet over high heat, then add the oil. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until the whole tomatoes burst and the halved ones start to wrinkle, about 2 minutes.

Add shrimp mixture, and sauté for another 2 to 4 minutes, turning the shrimp, until they are pink all over.

Gently stir in butter, and cook for another minute, until the shrimp are cooked through. Remove from heat, and add a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Taste and add more salt and spices, if needed. Garnish with mint and scallion greens, and serve immediately.

Tip: If your spice blend is heavy on the chilies, you might want to cut back by 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon; you can always add more to taste just before serving.

— By Melissa Clark