Avine-ripened tomato, packed with flavor, is available only when summer is in full tilt. Even with this season's drought, some of these fruits of summer have survived. So hurry!

Forget those bland, tasteless versions you've had to live with all winter and spring. Gather herbs. Buy a bottle of good olive oil. And put together some luxurious tomato salads.

Properly made, a tomato salad should have a little oil, the light acid kick of vinegar, the warmth of freshly ground pepper and the vigor of fresh herbs, all mingling with a few other carefully chosen ingredients.

Tomatoes are simple to prepare for these salads: remove the core and cut them into wedges or slices. But purists want to skin and seed the tomatoes: To do so, gingerly drop the tomatoes (whole, before you core them, or else you'll risk waterlogging them), a few at a time, into a pot of boiling water. Count to 15, then remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water; after about 30 seconds, dry the tomatoes on paper towels and gently remove the skins, using the tip of a paring knife to initiate the peeling.

After slicing the tomatoes with a stainless-steel serrated knife, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. A serrated knife glides through the fruit, rather than squashing it.

To coax the best flavor out of the tomatoes, I like to sprinkle the slices or wedges with salt and pepper before assembling the salad. (I use French sea salt.) Treating the tomatoes to this initial seasoning brings out the natural juices while intensifying the tomato taste.

If even these simple salads are too much to pull together on a hot summer day, just eat a slice of tomato with salt and put it out of your head that autumn is just around the corner.

Yellow Tomato, Corn and Green Bean Salad With Dill Vinaigrette

(6 servings)

Other vegetables--steamed and diced zucchini or pattypan squash; chopped red, yellow or green bell peppers; diced roasted onions--can be added to the salad in place of or in addition to the corn.

4 medium yellow tomatoes, cut into wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon-style

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons snipped dill (feathery portions only)

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and steamed just until tender (about 5 minutes), refreshed under cool water and cut into 2-inch pieces

3/4 cup cooked corn kernels (preferably white)

In a large nonreactive bowl, toss the tomato wedges with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15 minutes.

In a small nonreactive bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the green beans and corn to the tomatoes. Add the dressing and toss gently. Taste the salad and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 152 calories, 2 gm protein, 12 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, trace mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 101 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Chopped Tomato, Hearts of Palm and Onion Salad with Oregano

(6 servings)

This relish-like salad is good with grilled flank steak, chicken kebabs or leg of lamb. The trick to its success? Once the ingredients have been mixed with the dressing, let the salad stand until the exchange of flavors takes place (about 20 minutes), then adjust the seasoning. The amount of acid present in the tomatoes you're using will determine the amount of salt and sugar the salad requires.

4 medium red tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 sweet onion (preferably Vidalia), chopped

4 fresh hearts of palm, diced (or use canned or jarred, drained and dried)

5 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3/4 teaspoon sugar, plus additional to taste

1 3/4 teaspoons dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a medium nonreactive bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion and hearts of palm. Drizzle the vinegar and oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with the sugar. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to coat. Let the salad stand for at least 20 minutes or as long as 1 hour to blend the flavors.

Add the parsley. Adjust the seasoning, adding sugar or salt as necessary. Turn the salad into a bowl and serve.

Per serving: 76 calories, 2 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 51 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Tomato, Feta and White Bean Salad

(6 servings)

The creamy texture of the white beans is a nice foil for the tomatoes and feta cheese.

5 red tomatoes, cut into wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup cooked white beans (such as great northern or cannellini)

3 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon-style

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons oil-cured olives, pitted and chopped (optional)

In a medium nonreactive bowl, toss the tomato wedges with the salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Gently toss the tomatoes with the feta cheese, beans, shallots and garlic. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly. Blend in the parsley, thyme, oregano and olives, if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Per serving: 233 calories, 7 gm protein, 16 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 4 gm saturated fat, 374 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Yellow Tomato and Grilled Onion Salad with Garlic Toasts

(6 servings)

The mix of grilled onions and tomatoes makes this rustic salad especially compatible with barbecued beef or lamb.

For the onions and tomatoes:

3 medium sweet onions (preferably Vidalia), peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 small yellow tomatoes, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

For the garlic toasts:

3 cloves garlic

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus additional to taste (optional)

6 slices (about 3/4 inch thick) country-style bread

For the grilled onions: Use 2 tablespoons of the oil to brush both sides of the onion slices. Grill the onions until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the onions to a dish to cool.

Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Separate the onions into rings and scatter the rings over the tomato slices. Drizzle the tomatoes and the onions with the vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

For the garlic toasts: Preheat the grill or broiler.

Mash the garlic with the salt to create a paste. In a small bowl, combine the garlic paste, oil and red pepper flakes. Brush a little of the garlic oil on both sides of the bread slices. Lightly toast the bread on both sides, watching carefully to avoid burning (oil-rubbed bread browns very quickly). Cut the toasts in half diagonally.

Nestle the garlic toasts at angles in between the tomato slices or arrange the toasts around the edge of the plate. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 193 calories, 4 gm protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 272 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Tomato, Smoked Mozzarella and Chickpea Salad with Thyme

(6 servings)

Marinate the tomato wedges in a little of the olive oil with salt and pepper to bring out the taste of the fruit and provide a flavorful liquid to moisten the slices of mozzarella.

6 small to medium red tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional to taste

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

3/4 cup cooked (or canned) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), cooled and drained

12 slices smoked mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

In a medium nonreactive bowl, toss the tomatoes with the salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, thyme and chickpeas. Stir lightly but thoroughly. Spoon the tomato salad onto a serving plate. Tuck the mozzarella slices among the tomatoes. Drizzle the top of the salad with additional oil, if desired. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Per serving: 260 calories, 13 gm protein, 14 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 349 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Tomato, Red Pepper and Roasted Beet Salad With Basil

(6 servings)

Steamed beet greens, tomato wedges and strips of smoky red peppers combine with roasted beets to make a salad layered with flavor. The components can be prepared in advance and then mixed with the oil, vinegars and herbs just before serving. To turn your handiwork into a main course, you could add chunks of grilled tuna or chicken.

For the roasted beets and greens:

6 beets, green tops trimmed and reserved

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the tomatoes and red peppers:

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 red bell peppers

4 medium red tomatoes, cut into narrow wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For the roasted beets and greens: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Wrap the beets in a sheet of aluminum foil, transfer to a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Peel the beets and cut into narrow wedges. Toss the beets with the oil and the balsamic and red wine vinegars. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, have a medium bowl of cold water ready. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot fitted with a steamer insert or basket. Steam the greens just until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Refresh the greens in the cold water then transfer them to paper towels to dry. Cut the greens into thirds. Set aside.

For the tomatoes and red peppers: Preheat the grill or broiler on high.

Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil over the surface of the peppers. Char the peppers on all sides, carefully turning them with a pair of tongs as they blacken. Place the peppers on a large square of aluminum foil, wrap tightly and set aside to cool. When they are completely cooled, peel, core and seed the peppers; cut them into wide strips.

In a large nonreactive bowl, toss the tomatoes with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 15 minutes. Gently fold in the peppers, roasted beets and beet greens. Add the basil and parsley and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Per serving: 205 calories, 4 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 260 mg sodium, 6 gm dietary fiber

Tomato, Fennel, Prosciutto and Parmesan Salad

(6 servings)

Ripe tomatoes, anise-flavored fennel, ham and Parmesan create a summer salad that makes a nice first course.

4 tomatoes (red or yellow), cut into wedges

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/4 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind

3 tablespoons olive oil

18 thin slices prosciutto (about 7 ounces)

1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled (optional)

In a medium nonreactive bowl, toss the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Place the fennel in a small nonreactive bowl and toss with the lemon juice and rind and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Combine the tomatoes, fennel mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Line a serving plate with the prosciutto. Spoon the tomatoes and fennel on top of the prosciutto and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and pine nuts, if using.

Per serving: 125 calories, 6 gm protein, 10 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 295 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Lisa Yockelson is at work on a cookbook about developing flavor in baked goods, to be published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.