Tons of Tomatoes…..

August 27, 2003

Tons of Tomatoes…..

It is the time of year for loads of garden fresh tomatoes. If you are lucky, you either have a garden with tomatoes, or have a friend who has one and you have become a lucky recipient. If you are not so blessed, then hopefully you have access to a farm stand. There is nothing like fresh tomatoes, still warm from the sun in the garden.

About 7 years ago, I was working on a farm (more on that around apple season), where there was a large garden No one really seemed to take the vegetables that were growing there. When we asked the guy in charge about it, he said to help ourselves! So the other teacher and I would go home with bags of things on a daily basis. There were days when I would bring home a grocery bag (the big paper kind) that was half filled with tomatoes! There were many things going begging in that garden: eggplant, red and green peppers, basil (can you imagine!- a 3 x 5 foot area planted thick with basil!), carrots, beets, and zucchini.

That year, I made all sorts of things with all the free produce I could carry home. I even went back to visit the following year and was told to cut as much basil as I wanted since no one was using it! I quickly made my way to that huge basil patch and using the leatherman I kept in the glove compartment in the car, I chopped madly at the stems. I brought armfuls to the car while baby Eli watched. We drove home with the windows down since the heady smell was so intense I was swooning. I had cut enough to fill a paper grocery bag with the leaves. I have never made that much pesto before in my life! It was enough, that I made and froze many containers with the green gold. It held us for months of eating pesto with everything as often as we wanted.

So, bringing home a large amount of tomatoes, and not wanting to just make tomato sauce, I started hunting down some other recipes. The best was the escalloped tomatoes. Simple and tasty. Adam and I would have it to go with anything. I learned to drop the tomatoes into boiling water, scoop them out and peel them. Although, I sometimes would just do the recipe skipping that step- too eager to just pop it in the oven and enjoy it. Some nights we would just slice a tomato in half, smear it with pesto and pop it under the broiler. Heaven.

Bread salad was a great discovery the next summer. It is incredibly tasty and if you haven’t had it before, you must try it! Make sure you get some good bread for it, and let it dry out a bit to really enjoy it. The tomato soup was one of my earlier soup making experiences, that was tried in college. This is not what you get from a can, but worthy of making when you have fresh tomatoes. It is chunky and tasty and leaves you wanting more.

This summer, I have had to resort to supporting our local farm stands and actually buy my produce. A fresh simple plate of sliced tomatoes slices of mozzarella, scattered with basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil, can hit the spot. The following recipes beg to be made this time of year, and it is a waste to pass this season by without indulging your taste buds in the fresh flavors. Late summer is made for tons of tasty tomatoes. If you can, try one just off the vine, still warm from the sun, and sprinkle it with salt. Bite into summer.

Escalloped Tomatoes

From the Colorado Cache Cookbook. Great when you have lots of fresh garden tomatoes. I made this when I got a plethora of tomatoes from the 4-H Farm when I worked there in ‘95-96.

1/2 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 1/4 cups fresh, soft bread crumbs (can use dried, but it is better with fresh)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
3 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 4-5 medium), peeled
—-or a alb 15 oz can italian tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Sauté onion in butter for 5 minutes. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley, 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, salt and set aside.
2. Slice tomatoes into 1/4’ thick slices. Arrange a layer in a lightly buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole.
3. Combine oil and rest of Worcestershire sauce and pour a little over tomatoes.
4. Sprinkle lightly with breadcumb mix.
5. Repeat layers, ending with breadcrumbs.
6. Bake covered at 375° for 30 minutes.
7. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Serves 6.

Pesto

Make alot of this. It’s wonderful on everything.

2 cups basil leaves
1 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup grated (or shredded) parmesan cheese
1/4 – 1/3 cup pignoli nuts (pine nuts)

Put basil, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor and blend well. Add parmesan and salt, blend again. Add pine nuts and pulse a few times. Pour in a container, add a film of oil on the top, and keep in fridge. Freeze for later use if you want.

*If you get some basil, and don’t have time to make up the pesto, at least puree it with the olive oil to mix up the rest later.

Bread Salad

From the June ‘97 issue of Kitchen Garden magazine. “ If you are a stranger to bread salads, you will be delighted by your discovery. They are simply heavenly and lend themselves easily to whatever variation strikes your fancy. You must use excellent, country-style bread that is at least a day old, and you must also add enough vinaigrette to moisten the bread evenly. Then let the season, your garden, and your pantry be your inspiration. This is one of my favorite versions.”

Vinaigrette:
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2/3 cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups day-old Italian bread cut into 1-in. cubes.
2 to 2-1/2 cups ripe cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, diced
3 Tbs. minced Italian parsley
Fresh salad greens

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and garlic. Whisk in the olive oil slowly to create emulsion.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the bread and most of the dressing, reserving 2 or 3 Tbsp. Let the bread sit for 30 min.
3. Add the tomatoes, onion, and Italian parsley to the bread and toss together lightly. Add the remaining dressing, toss.
4. Spread the salad greens on a serving platter, top with the bread salad, and serve immediately.
makes 4 servings

Tomato- Basil Soup
Quick and easy tomato soup. From Glamour’s Gourmet on the Run– one of my favorite cookbooks!. Very fresh and perfect if you have just one good tomato!

1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt)

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.
Add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook 5 -10 minutes, until soft, but not brown, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato, chicken broth, basil and salt. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add buttermilk (or plain yogurt). Serve immediately.
Makes 2 servings

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