Farmers market report: Tomatoes are in season

What’s in season: A variety of exotic heirloom and other tomatoes are showing up at a number of markets, taking advantage of the heat. And though the quality of supermarket tomatoes continues to improve, it’s still hard to beat the flavor offered by local farmers at various stands, with colorful fruit turning up in all shapes and sizes, and names such as Early Girl, Black Truffle and Cherokee purple. The fruit is generally available throughout the hot summer and early fall months.

What to cook: At peak ripeness, perhaps the most satisfying way to enjoy a great tomato is sliced with a little salt and pepper, and maybe a drizzle of olive oil. Depending on the type and size, toss tomatoes into salads or bake into savory galettes. Purée them to flavor a refreshing gazpacho or simple tomato soup, or simmer the fruit slowly to bring out their natural sweetness in a classic marinara sauce. Put sliced tomatoes between pieces of bread slathered with mayonnaise for a simple sandwich or marinate the fruit to add bright notes to a rich grilled cheese. Check with the farmer for flavor characteristics of particular types and suggested uses.

What’s on the horizon: Mounds of sweet corn are beginning to make a show at various stands.

GRILLED CHEESE WITH MARINATED TOMATOES

Total Time: 25 minutes, plus marinating time | Serves 2 to 4

MARINATED TOMATOES

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

Pinch red pepper flakes, more to taste

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise

10 large basil leaves, very thinly sliced

2 tablespoons capers, drained and crushed

2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced

2 pounds very ripe large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch-thick slices

In a bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, thyme, pepper flakes, salt and several grinds of black pepper. Stir in the onion, basil, capers and garlic. Spread a little of the marinade on the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with a layer of tomatoes. Spread over a little more marinade, then another layer of tomatoes. Top with the remaining marinade, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. The marinated tomatoes will keep up to 2 days.

GRILLED CHEESE WITH MARINATED TOMATOES

4 slices from a large country white loaf, sliced 1/2-inch thick

10 ounces sliced smoked cheese, preferably comte, provolone or gouda

4 to 6 slices marinated tomatoes, drained of any excess liquid

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided

Place two slices of bread on a cutting board. Divide half of the cheese slices evenly between the two slices, then top with the sliced tomatoes. Top the tomatoes with the remaining cheese, then cover with the two slices of bread to form the two sandwiches. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and swirl in the pan until it is melted and starting to bubble. Place the sandwiches in the pan and grill until the bread is a rich golden brown and the cheese has started to melt. Carefully flip the sandwiches over, add the remaining butter and continue to grill until the other side is browned and toasted. Slice the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Each of 4 servings: Calories 557; Protein 24 grams; Carbohydrates 34 grams; Fiber 3 grams; Fat 37 grams; Saturated fat 21 grams; Cholesterol 111 mg; Sugar 5 grams; Sodium 1,008 mg

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