What to do with all those tomatoes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
Last week, we featured an innovative way to use all those extra cucumbers your garden is producing — cucumber bread.
“What about tomatoes?” one reader wondered.
Indeed, if you’re growing tomatoes, you’re probably about ready for some inspiration in the kitchen. Sure, tomato sandwiches made with Wonder Bread are great, but there are plenty of other amazing things to do with all those flavorful homegrown tomatoes.
One of my favorite simple ways to eat fresh tomatoes is to pair tomato slices with slices of the best fresh mozzarella you can find (or afford). Add just a bit of olive oil and some kosher salt and you have a divine appetizer. Actually, I could eat this for lunch or dinner, accompanied with a bit of crusty bread, and be quite happy.
My favorite new recipe is for panzanella. Panzanella is a salad of bread and tomatoes that originated in Italy. It sounds a little strange, I know, but it’s heavenly, as it turns out.
There are many variations on panzanella, I’ve discovered. Some feature cucumbers; some don’t. Some use kalamata olives; others prefer capers. I mashed up two different recipes and loved the results.
I wouldn’t worry too much about exact quantities of ingredients. If you have more of one thing, then use it.
2 large tomatoes fresh from the vine, roughly chopped into small chunks
1/2 small to medium cucumber, seeded and diced, cut into half-inch pieces
1/4 C. basil, roughly chopped
1/3 C. Kalamata olives
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 C. good quality bread, cut into cubes, stale OK (I used an Italian round loaf; a French baguette would also be good)
1 tsp. sea salt
3 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 C. olive oil
1Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Heat the 3 tablespoonfuls of oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt and toast over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.(You might want to make some extra because if you’re like me, you’re going to want to eat these toasty chunks of goodness right out of the pan).
For the vinaigrette, whisk all ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, basil, onion and olives.
Add the bread cubes and gently toss with the vinaigrette.
Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 4-6.
• • •
The following recipe for Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad was also new to me, and I will definitely keep it at hand when both sweet corn and tomates are in season. If you have really good, fresh corn, the sweetness might be a little overpowering. I added the juice of half a lime to balance out the sweetness, but you might like the original version. It’s touted by some as the perfect accompaniment for ribs. It’s also a dish that would tote nicely to a potluck.
• • •
Fresh Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad
Serves 6
4-6 ears corn
2 C. halved cherry tomatoes (I like more tomatoes than this)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1/3 C. chopped fresh basil leaves (cilantro would probablly work well also)
2 Tbs. Champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot of boiling water, cook corn until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water until cool.
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, onion, avocado, and basil in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients to make the vinaigrette, whisking until blended.
Cut corn kernels off cobs and add to salad, then pour in vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. Serves 6.
• • •
If you don’t mind using the oven in the heat of summer, tomato pie is a great way to utilize a bounty of tomatoes. Post editor Elizabeth Cook shares this recipe.
Fresh Tomato Pie
1 (9-inch) unbaked pastry shell
6 to 8 ripe tomatoes
1 medium onion
3/4 C. mayonnaise
1/3 C. grated mozzarella cheese
1/3 C. grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, garnish
Fresh oregano leaves, garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the pastry shell for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned.
Slice onion and place in the bottom of pastry shell. Slice tomatoes, drain on paper towels. Arrange tomatoes over onions. Add black pepper to taste.
In a medium bowl, combine mozzarella, Parmesan and mayo. Spread this mixture evenly over tomatoes.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooked, garnish with fresh herbs.
Serves 4.
• • •
Salsa is a good way to use tomatoes. If you’re looking for something a little different from your run-of-the-mill salsa, try this recipe that features mango and avocado. Several peaches could probably be used in place of the mango.
Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa
— from allrecipes.com
1 mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/2 C. chopped fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1/4 C. chopped red onion
3 Tbs. olive oil
In a medium bowl, combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic. Stir in the salt, lime juice, red onion, and olive oil. To blend the flavors, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.
• • •
Gazpacho is a cold tomato-based raw vegetable soup with origins in Spain, and it’s wonderfully refreshing on hot summer days. This recipe comes from Judy Newman, who advises that it may be served chunky “as is” or pulsed in a food processor or blender. Judy says she usually makes it a day ahead so that the flavors “have an opportunity to get aquainted.”
She also advises that she follows these quantities very loosely — so any given batch is going to taste somewhat different.
6 large tomatoes (drop into boiling water for 30 seconds; slip skins off)
1 chopped cucumber
[0xbd] C. chopped green pepper (or yellow or orange pepper)
[0xbd] C. chopped celery
[0xbd] C. chopped red onion
2 cloves minced garlic (I put mine through a garlic press, so you don’t get chunks)
6 ounces chicken broth (canned or bullion)
1 14-oz can of tomato or V-8 juice (I like tomato better)
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
[0xbc] tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco
• • •
If you’ve got tons of cherry tomatoes, it might be time to make some pasta salad.
This recipe for Penne and Tomato Salad, adapted from Ann Byrn’s “The Dinner Doctor,” is simple and good. I like to add Kalamata olives, which gives it a nice salty zip. Until I tried this recipe, I had never used chopped spinach in a pasta salad. It’s a great concept.
I prefer to make my own dressing for this, using olive oil and vinegar or lemon with whatever spices strike my fancy.
Penne and Tomato Salad
1 pound penne
1 bag (6 ounces) spinach
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 bottle balsamic vinaigrette, or more, if needed
1 package (four ounces) feta cheese (can use tomato and basil feta cheese)
1/2 C. Kalamata olives (more or less to taste)
1/2 C. chopped basil
Cook the penne until al dente. Meanwhile, chop the spinach and basil and cut the tomatoes in half
Put the penne in a serving bowl and pour the dressing over it. Stir to combine. Fold in the chopped spinach, tomato halves and feta cheese. Stir until all of the ingredients are coated with more dressing. Add more dressing if needed to moisten the salad. Spinkle the basil over the top of the salad. Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Serves 6 as a main course.
• • •
If you like your pasta a little milder (no strong feta or Kalamata taste), try this easy recipe, which also comes from Judy Newman. It can be served hot or cold.
Fresh Tomato and Basil Pasta
About 1 Tbs. plus 1/4 tsp. salt, divided
1 pound penne pasta
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, and chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-in. pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 C. basil leaves, slivered
1/2 C. extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 Tbs. salt and the penne; cook pasta until just tender to the bite. While pasta is cooking, combine tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, and basil in a large bowl. Add olive oil and remaining salt to tomato mixture.
Drain pasta, add to tomato mixture, and toss. Add salt to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 6.