Winning tomato recipes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post
If the Washington Post’s Food section’s third annual Top Tomato recipe contest were merely a numbers game, it would break down this way: 111 submissions, 41 recipes tested, 13 finalists, 2 entries without tomatoes (!), 3 solid winners and 1 batch of shining examples that spoil author Michael Pollan’s recent polemic about Americans not spending quality time in the kitchen.
But the whole enterprise means so much more.
We asked readers to submit original recipes with a maximum of 10 ingredients; 13 dishes were chosen. Cutesy names, canned tomatoes, ice creams and sorbets (good tries, though) didn’t make the cut; neither did creations with too much pepper and not enough salt. And we remembered why we started the whole shebang: Tomato love is a powerful good thing. Uncooperative weather and late blight aside, summer’s glorious seedy fruit is waiting at your local farmers markets and roadside stands. It’s always nice to share new ways to enjoy it.
First-place honors go to Ellynne Brice Davis of Leonardtown, Md., for a recipe so simple she almost didn’t send it in. We found her Tomato Stack Salad easy and artful: a filling with the classic flavors of mozzarella and basil ó plus pecans and drizzles of a sweetened vinaigrette ó goes between layers of the ripest, juiciest specimens you can find. It takes 15 minutes and no cooking.
Mary Jo Sweeney of Crownsville, Md., just missed a repeat performance as No. 1. (Readers have told us they are still making her ‘Mato Sammidges’ from last year.)
This year’s second-place winner is her Tricolor Tomato Salad With Lime Sour Cream and Pesto, which makes an elegant first course. The citrus complements both the pesto and tomato surprisingly well.