Second only to its cousin the potato in annual vegetable consumption, the tomato (which is actually a fruit) is a staple in the produce aisle. But even though you can get your beefsteak or your plum or your cherry tomato fix just about any time throughout the year, summer is when the fruit truly tastes its best.
At Amali restaurant in New York City, it goes back to its South American roots in the hands of executive chef Nilton "Junior" Borges of Brazil. On the menu, however, and with the help of the restaurant's Illinois-bred Chef de Cuisine, Martell Fonville, the tomato takes on a much more Mediterranean-American guise. (Think spaghetti with cured San Marzano tomatoes, fiore sardo and basil, and a "BLT" fancied up with pork belly, smoked bacon, fried green tomato and garlic aioli. Yum!)
When venturing into your own tomato cookery, look for ones that yield slightly to pressure and are fragrant and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth, brightly colored and free of blemishes. At home, store the fruit at room temperature until ripe (don't refrigerate them, as it will affect their flavor) and then use them within a couple of days.
Here, Borges and Fonville serve up two more Amali favorites -- an heirloom tomato salad that lets this week's star ingredient shine (the modern classic), and a panko-crusted take on a well-known Southern tradition (creative genius).
Classic or creative? Which one gets your vote?