Feasting on Fresh Tomatoes

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It’s Finally Tomato Time

After a slow start, the tomatoes are ripening fast and are they ever good. Along with those tasty tomatoes, my little deck garden is packed with produce these days, with bushy basil (now on its third cutting), tender stringbeans in all colors, and lots of greens and herbs.

As usual, the tangy little Sungolds were the first to ripen. It took me a while to figure out when the Indigo Rose tomatoes were ready, because they colored up well but were hard as rocks. If you pick some too early, you can use them in stir fries or saute them with cabbage and onions (delicious!). If you want them edible as-is, here’s the clue: when ripe, the fruit feels just slightly soft and the dusky skin looks matte instead of glossy. Their flavor is delectable, with a tart-sweet balance that reminds me of wild blackberries in its complexity.

Spicy Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, and Grilled Chicken

High summer means sweet corn and fresh tomatoes, two treats that can be combined in zillions of creative combinations, all of them enticing. I love to partner them in hearty summer salads, adding chunks of grilled chicken as well as baby green beans and summer squash. For dressing, toss them with a lively uncooked tomato sauce that tastes like pure essence of summer.

Sweet Corn and Chicken Salad

2 cups Romaine, chopped
2 cups green cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup kale, stemmed and shredded
1 cup arugula or mustard greens, shredded
2 cups grilled chicken, in bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup Walla-Walla Sweet onion, finely diced
2 ears sweet corn, kernels trimmed
1 cup baby green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 4-5 inch summer squash, diced
1 cup Spunky Tomato Sauce (see below)

Combine all ingredients in a large serving bowl and toss gently. Serves 4. Puree any leftovers for instant gazpacho!

The Supreme Sauce Of Summer

This lovely uncooked sauce is wonderful on hot pasta or rice, or blended with chunks of tuna or shredded grilled chicken for a spreadable sandwich filling.

Spunky Raw Tomato Sauce

2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon lemon thyme or any thyme, stemmed
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients, process to a coarse puree and adjust salt to taste.  Makes about 2 cups. Refrigerate leftover dressing in a tightly sealed glass jar for up to 3 days.

Yellow Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Plump little Yellow Pear tomatoes pack an amazing amount of flavor. Lovely in salads, they are delightful in a warm tomato tart, laced with capers, shredded basil, and bits of sweet onion. Add just a tad of fresh goat cheese for a meltingly creamy finish. This tart tastes wonderful warm and leftover slices heat up beautifully in the toaster oven.

Yellow Pear Tomato Tart

1 pie crust
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
2 cups yellow pear tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1/4 cup fresh basil, stemmed and finely shredded
1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Roll pie crust out into a rough circle, then place it on a heavy duty baking sheet and fold about 1 inch of the edge inward. Flute the doubled dough with your fingers to create a half-inch-high outer edge.  Brush crust with 1/2 teaspoon oil and layer on half the basil. Add tomatoes, cut side up, and sprinkle with capers, red onion, and salt and pepper. Top with remaining basil and dot with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F until crust is crisp (20-25 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-6 as an entree or makes 18 appetizer slices.

A Summer Classic

When I can’t think what to cook on a warm summer night, my default is some version of the classic Italian Tomato Pie. Line a pie dish with crust, then layer in ripe red tomatoes and some generous scatterings of chopped herbs, such as basil, oregano, lavender and/or rosemary. Alternately add onions and garlic-infused bread crumbs, then top it off with coarsely grated cheese, such as Peccorino, Romano or Parmesan. No matter how you assemble it, this beautiful, savory pie makes a refreshing and satisfying meal.

Summery Tomato Pie

1 pie crust
2 cups dried beans or glass marbles
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
(1 thick slice whole grain bread, grated in food processor)
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup fresh basil, stemmed and shredded
1 tablespoon fresh flat Italian parsley, stemmed
1 teaspoon rosemary, stemmed and chopped
1 teaspoon lavender blossoms
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely grated Peccorino or any hard cheese

Line a 9-inch pie dish with the crust, prick bottom with a fork. Fill pie dish with beans or marbles and bake at 350 degrees F until golden (8-10 minutes). Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove beans or marbles. In a heavy frying pan, heat oil, garlic, and bread crumbs over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is pale golden (3-4 minutes). Add herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside. Layer tomatoes and onion into pie crust, alternating with (and ending with) bread crumb mixture. Top with  cheese and bake at 400 degrees F until hot through (20-25 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves at least one.

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2 Responses to Feasting on Fresh Tomatoes

  1. Shannon says:

    Wow, those recipes all sound amazing, especially the tomato tarts. Thanks so much!

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