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?

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CLASSIC: Martell Fonville's Heirloom Tomato Salad
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2 lb of mixed heirloom tomatoes
1 bunch of basil
1 bunch of purple basil
1/4 pint of basil seeds
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

How-To:
At Amali, we buy tomatoes from the Union Square Market or a trusted vendor like Lucky's Tomatoes.

Pick the basil, transfer the basil seeds to a small bowl or container and add water to cover, let it stand for a few minutes for them to rehydrate, meanwhile slice the tomatoes in different sizes and shapes.

Once the basil seeds are nice and plump, season them with olive oil and salt.

Arrange the tomatoes on the plate or platter, season them with olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, tear the basil leaves over it and add a few dollops of the basil seeds for color and texture.