What To Eat Now: Tomatoes

Why September is the month to put tomatoes in sandwiches, pies, chutney and more

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"There's a perfect moment for a tomato, and then it's gone. I always look forward to heirloom varieties like the first Cherokee purple of the season, or Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, a pink tomato developed by a guy called Radiator Charlie in West Virginia in the '30's. When those come in, they're just mind-blowing. Now autumn is here. The barn swallows have fled, and the pumpkins are coming in, and we're getting ready to can up the tomatoes and make sauces for the winter. The taste of a real tomato–it's somewhat indescribable. Texture's the main thing. Silky, juicy. The balance of acidity and sweetness. All you need is a little olive oil and salt. Or a bagel and cream cheese with a slice of tomato on top. That first taste you just go: 'Oh, there it is. That's what I've been looking for.'" — Tim Stark, proprietor of Eckerton Hill Farm and author of Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer

There's nothing simpler (or more perfect) than sliced heirlooms with good mayo on plain white bread. "I had my first tomato-mayo sandwich when I was seven," says Kelly English, chef and owner of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, TN. "I was conflicted between the joy of what I had in my hand and the resentment that I hadn't had one yet." English, who insists all tomatoes be seasoned with salt and pepper, serves summertime dinner guests tomato-and-aoli panzanella–"but we all know that is just a fancy-ass tomato sandwich."

Pan con tomate is Spanish for "spread on the goodness." Seriously. We looked it up. You might expect bruschetta from Michael Chiarello, but not if you knew his new San Francisco restaurant was Spanish and called Coqueta–and not if you'd ever tried this ridiculously easy pan con tomate. Chiarello's advice: "Use super crisp bread, the season's best tomatoes and great whole salt (we use Maldon)."

Our Test Kitchen's tomato dashi, pie and chutney

In-season tomatoes can go from light and juicy to deep and pungent with these simple techniques: Impossibly fresh tomato water gets a hard-to-place, easy-to-like umami kick from bonito flakes in an effervescent tomato dashi. Our tomato pie harbors many secrets–saffron, goat cheese, Kewpie mayonnaise. And lastly, for your next burger or sandwich, consider a ketchup upgrade in the form of this thick, vinegar-y, ginger-y tomato chutney.