I can't get enough of fresh tomatoes.
When I was a kid, fresh tomatoes were a real summer treat. Living in Alaska, I called the tomatoes that showed up in the winter "snow tomatoes", for both their consistency and their color. Come summer, my paternal grandfather would send a box of newspaper-wrapped tomatoes up to us twice a week; even if a few got squashed along the way, the price of shipping was still less than we would have paid for grocery-store tomatoes.
Later in the summer, when we would travel to Washington and Oregon to visit my grandparents, I would pluck juicy, crimson tomatoes from the vines every day, eating them like apples with breakfast, cutting them into wedges for a snack, slicing and peppering them with dinner. One summer my grandma grew over 25 plants in her garden-for-two, making tomato sauce, drying them, and gobbling them up as fast as possible.
We only have five tomato plants in our little patio garden, but I still have plenty of chances to experience the sublimity of biting into a homegrown tomato. My homegrown tomato. I picked eight tomatoes off the vines just yesterday, and I can see dozens more waiting to be devoured.
My favorite way to eat them is quartered, with a little salt and pepper and a drizzling of olive oil, but lately I've been eating (and talking about) panzanella at least once a week. Panzanella is kind of like a raw, deconstructed pappa al pomodoro, and it's delicious for the same reasons. While good bread is a must, it largely serves as a filler and a vehicle for the fresh tomato flavors - good, ripe, flavorful tomatoes are absolutely necessary.
As a bonus, it's about the easiest dish out there, it really doesn't require a recipe. Tear up some bread and toast it with olive oil. Cut up tomatoes and toss with more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, one or two lightly smashed garlic cloves, and some torn up basil leaves. Toss with the hot bread and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the garlic & eat. Lick the plate... oh, is that just me?
You can add or change things depending on what you like and what you have: replace the balsamic vinegar with red wine vinegar or lemon juice; toss in some capers or red onion; Adam from the Amateur Gourmet puts ricotta salata on his (I'll be trying that before the end of the summer). In smaller portions, panzanella makes a great side dish, but I find it a satisfying, rustic one-dish meal that's great on a summer weeknight after a run and a cool shower.
I have a few other ideas for tomato dishes in the coming weeks - roasted, stuffed, braised ... and I'm holding out for the end of the season to make some tomato jam to hoard in my cupboard until winter.