Tomatoes are like many fleeting seasonal things — summer heat, snow and thunderstorms, for example. You crave the very first taste, but an overabundance can become a bit overwhelming.

If you've ever had too much ripe fruit bursting from your garden or purchased a startlingly cheap basket of tomatoes at the produce market, you know that tomatoes are fragile things. Leave them out on the counter for more than a few days, and they turn to mush. For that reason, nearly every tomato grower has a sauce recipe under his or her sunhat. Either that, or neighbors who happily accept July and August's often aggressive tomato windfalls.

Enterprising tomato aficionados eventually learn the trick to never tiring of summer's ubiquitous nightshades: Get creative.

In Atlanta, where tomatoes benefit from the summer heat as readily as peaches, local chefs gather together for a food and music festival called Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, after the infamous B movie. There, culinary talent turns out creative dishes that help work both the sweet and savory sides of tomatoes, minimizing palate fatigue.

So it is with these five recipes. Even though they all share a common ingredient, they're different enough to warrant a full tomato tasting menu, should you feel so inclined.

What do you do with your summer tomatoes? Let us know in the comment field below.

Sweet and Savory Tomato/Coca-Cola Jam

This is an unusual way to use tomatoes. Acidity from the vinegar mellows the sugar, making a balanced sauce that works well on grilled foods, particularly pork chops. If you're proficient at canning, this is a wonderful treat to stow in the pantry for the cold, dark days of winter. Long after grilling days are done, serve this jam with roasted chicken.
(makes about a quart) 

Sweet and Savory Tomato-Coca-Cola Jam

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Coca-Cola
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 quart chopped tomatoes (about 3-4 large tomatoes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the chopped red onion, and stir until translucent.
  3. Add the Coca-Cola, vinegar and sugar, then bring to a boil.
  4.  Add the tomatoes, salt, bay leaf and thyme.
  5. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until liquid reduces by half, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Using a fork, mix to dissolve the cornstarch in a small bit of cold water.
  7. Stir this slurry into the tomato jam mixture, and then bring back to a low boil.
  8. Stir until thickened, about a minute or so.
  9. Remove from heat and let cool.
  10. Adjust seasonings.
  11. Serve with grilled pork chops or chicken.

Summer Tomato-Sprite Granita

This is a refreshing treat that some may find a bit on the unusual side. This granita, which is basically an easier version of sorbet, has a fresh, clean flavor and makes a gorgeous palate-cleansing course, or even a not-too-sweet dessert. This can be prepared up to one day ahead of time, but is best when just frozen. Serve in a chilled martini glass and add an extra splash of Sprite to make a refreshing mocktail. Be aware that fizzy Sprite can easily froth up and cause a mess in your blender. Work in small batches, or work with flat Sprite. (serves 6-8)

Summer Tomato-Sprite Granita

  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 cups Sprite, flat
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, dissolved in a small amount of hot water
  • Juice of half a lemon
  1. Put tomatoes in a blender and puree.
  2. Add Sprite, sugar, lemon juice and blend, working in batches as necessary.
  3. Pour mixture into a large glass or metal baking pan.
  4. Freeze for 25 minutes, then mix the frozen parts that form around the edges of the pan into the still-liquid granita mixture with a fork.
  5. Repeat these steps until frozen, breaking up any large frozen pieces to create a smooth texture. The granita should be like shaved ice. Takes about 3-4 hours.
  6. Serve immediately in a chilled martini glass, garnished with fresh mint.

Bruschetta Topping

Bruschetta is basically garlic toast with toppings. It makes a great snack for pop-in guests, especially since it's as easy as it gets, yet packs a good bit of 'wow' factor. To make it truly easy on yourself, serve this bruschetta topping with crackers or store-bought crostini, melba toasts or flat breads. Or, make garlic toast (instructions below). (serves 4-6)

Tomato Bruschetta

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh mozzarella
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients. If making ahead, set aside the cheese until the last minute.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. Serve with slices of toasted French bread (try brushing with olive oil and rubbing with a garlic clove, and then toasting slices on a rack in a sheet pan at 350°F), or with crackers.

Chilled Tomato Soup

This dish is somewhat of a lazy man's gazpacho. And truly, nothing could be more satisfying on the dog days of summer, when laziness is basically the order of the day. You may leave out the Old Bay Seasoning in this recipe, but we feel that the mild spice and savory flavor add the perfect kick to this soup, which only seems to get better the longer it sits. (serves 2-3)

Chilled Tomato Soup

  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cup stock (chicken, vegetable, or fish)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup loosely packed, chopped scallions
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  1. Puree tomatoes, garlic and stock.
  2. Add the scallions, seasonings, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice.
  3. Pulse several times.
  4. Taste and readjust seasoning.
  5. Garnish with chopped scallions and fresh herbs.

BCT Salad

This takes the natural pairing of bacon and tomatoes that makes BLTs so good, and substitutes fresh corn for lettuce. We think that fresh corn is arguably better with bacon than lettuce, though it's hard to argue with the classics. Serve this cold at a potluck. It makes a great side with burgers. (serves 2-3)

BCT Salad

  • 4 large, thick-cut slices of bacon, cooked and chopped small
  • 2 1/2 cups assorted, small tomatoes (halved grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes cut into wedges)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1/4 cup fresh julienned basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients and stir.
  2. Taste and adjust seasoning.