August tomatoes quickly erase the memories of the hard, mealy, tasteless tomatoes we endure the rest of the year. Tomatoes ripened in the field burst with flavor and practically melt in your mouth.     

To take advantage of this limited, but well-appreciated, growing season, we’ve put together a package of recipes featuring the tomato. These recipes showcase tomatoes in their unadulterated glory: simply washed and chopped, and paired with other August favorites that include fresh corn, fragrant basil, crisp cucumbers, baby arugula, and newly dug potatoes. The pasta salad with tomatoes, corn, basil, and fresh mozzarella will accompany just about anything grilled, as will the chopped tomato salad with olives, feta, and cucumber, or the potato salad with arugula and tomatoes.

The accompanying vinaigrettes, one with fresh herbs and a simple balsamic, can be used for any combination of green salad and tomato. Aside from finding a good tomato (see the Island list to the right) and having a good extra virgin olive oil on hand, you might want to include one or more complementary cheeses: fresh mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, ricotta salata, and any type of blue cheese.

You can prep most of the ingredients ahead of time, except the tomatoes. They taste best at room temperature, added just before serving; otherwise they become too juicy and dilute the dish. It’s not a good idea to refrigerate tomatoes, either whole or as part of a dish; refrigeration destroys one of the tomato’s key flavor components ­– (z)-3 hexenyl – and makes the texture mealy. On the other hand, salt brings out a tomato’s best flavor, so season the
tomatoes with a little salt as you put your dish together.

Finding the perfect tomato

For best results with these tomato dishes, use Vineyard-grown tomatoes – whether from your garden or the nearest farm stand or farmer’s market. Many supermarket tomatoes may look good on the outside, but lack real flavor on the inside, where it counts.

If you don’t have a garden, look for the Island’s best tomatoes at the locations below. It’s worth your effort to find a good tomato.

The Farmer’s Market
Grange Hall grounds, West Tisbury
Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.
Wednesday (in summer), 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This is the best place to find the perfectly ripe tomato in all colors, shapes, and sizes. You can also pick up fresh herbs, corn, arugula, cucumbers, slender green beans, and other Island-grown ingredients.

Morning Glory Farm
Edgartown–West Tisbury Road, Edgartown
Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fresh cherry, slicing, and plum tomatoes, along with the Island’s best corn and other farm-fresh vegetables, picked daily.

Norton Farm
Vineyard Haven–Edgartown Road
On the Tisbury–Oak Bluffs line
Seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Look for the new building, which replaces the old farm stand, to find tomatoes and other produce picked daily.

Caitlin Jones and Allen Healy
9 Middle Road (across from Brookside Farm) Chilmark
Seven days a week, dawn to dusk.

Heirloom tomato specialties sold at a small, self-serve stand.

Tomato and arugula salad with grilled steak and portobello mushrooms

Serves 2 to 3

This makes an easy weeknight dinner, but is delicious enough for casual company fare. Add some roasted potatoes and grilled garlic bread to complete the meal. Arugula tastes great here, but any mix of  Vineyard salad greens works equally well. For cheese lovers, top with a little gorgonzola or Great Hill blue cheese.

• 1 New York strip or rib-eye steak
• 2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
• 3 cups arugula, stems removed, washed and spun dry
• 2 tomatoes, cored and cut into small wedges

Balsamic vinaigrette

• 1 teaspoon minced garlic, divided
• 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl. Brush some of this on each side of the mushrooms first, and then the rest on the steak. Sprinkle mushrooms and steak liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside and start the grill, either gas or charcoal.

2. In another small bowl, mix the other 1/2 teaspoon of garlic with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Add two good pinches of salt and pepper to taste.

3. Grill the steak and mushrooms. While steak is resting, add the arugula to a small mixing bowl and moisten with some of the vinaigrette. Turn arugula out onto a serving platter. Top with tomatoes. Slice mushrooms thin, place throughout salad. Slice steak thinly and cut those pieces in half. Add to salad. Drizzle steak, tomatoes, and mushrooms with additional dressing and sprinkle with a little more salt.

Tomato salad with feta, olives, and an herb dressing

Serves 4 to 6

Great served with grilled bread rubbed with a clove of garlic. If you haven’t tasted a sheep’s milk feta, such as Valbreso, I suggest trying one for the wonderful flavor. You will probably have some leftover dressing, which is great to use on any type of green salad. The herbs lose their bright green color, but the taste remains.

• 4 or 5 tomatoes, cored
• 1 cucumber
• 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
• 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
• Basil leaves for garnish

Herb vinaigrette

• 3 tablespoons sherry, balsamic, or aged red wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon each, if available, of fresh oregano, basil, and         chives, finely chopped
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Cut each tomato in half from top to stem. Cut each half into bite-sized wedges, at least four wedges per half. Peel the cucumber, cut in half, and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Slice thin.

2. In a small bowl or glass jar with a lid, whisk together the vinegar and olive oil. Mix in herbs, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Just before serving, add tomatoes to a serving bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss gently. Mix in cucumbers and olives. Drizzle desired amount of vinaigrette over the salad (you will have some left over). Scatter the feta over the salad, but don’t mix in. Garnish with a few basil leaves. 

Summer pasta salad with tomato, fresh mozzarella, corn, and basil

Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

This simple pasta dish offers a winning summertime combination of tomatoes, corn, basil, and fresh mozzarella. It’s great for any backyard food affair because it goes with just about everything. Dress this salad just before serving; otherwise, the pasta absorbs the dressing and you may need additional lemon juice or olive oil.

• 1 pound penne pasta
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 3 ears corn, corn removed from cobs (about 1 1/2 cups)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 cups fresh mozzarella, cut into tiny cubes
• 3 to 4 tomatoes, cored and diced
• Zest from 1 lemon
• 1 cup basil leaves, rinsed and dried dressing
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon aged red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
• 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for pasta
• 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Bring water to a boil, add at least 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add corn kernels. Continue cooking until pasta is al dente. Drain both corn and pasta. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to cooling pasta to keep it from sticking. Shake to distribute. Set aside to cool.

2. To make the dressing, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and salt.

3. Before serving, combine pasta and corn with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and zest. Mix in the dressing. Gently slice the basil into thin strips and add. If transporting the salad, keep the salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.

Potato salad with arugula and tomatoes

Serves 6 to 8

In this recipe, arugula is used more as an herb than a lettuce. The pungent flavor is distinct, but nicely balanced by the smoothness of the potatoes, the lushness of the olive oil, and the tang of the tomatoes. Great for picnics and barbecues.

• 2 pounds small (approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter) red potatoes
• 1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion
• 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch-wide wedges
• 1 1/2 cups arugula leaves, washed and tough stems trimmed chopped dressing
• 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons Dijon or whole grain mustard
• 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Scrub potatoes well. Steam over boiling water until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Cool potatoes slightly under running water to allow easy handling. Peel potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl.

3. When potatoes have cooled to room temperature, add the red onion, tomatoes, and arugula. Toss gently to combine.

4. In a small jar or bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Just before serving, pour over the vegetables and toss gently to incorporate dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Tomato trivia

The heaviest tomato ever was a 7-pound, 12-ounce fruit of the Delicious variety grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma, in 1986. The
tallest tomato plant ever grown was 65 feet, by Nutriculture Ltd. of Mawdesley, Lancashire, in 2000.