Nothing could be finer than a tomato in Carolina

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2018

By Deirdre Parker Smith

Tomato season is finally here. No more pink, hard, flavorless tomatoes picked green and gassed to “ripen” them.  Those tomatoes just won’t ever have the rich, acidic bite of what grows in the garden or on the farm.

Varieties like Big Boy, Better Boy and German Johnson are standard in many gardens, but farmers are now raising more and more heirloom tomatoes, like Cherokee purples. Those tomatoes tend to be kind of gnarly, not entirely round, and sometimes with cracks, but they are delicious.

Tomatoes can be yellow, orange, striped yellow and red or red and green.

If you’re buying them at a produce stand or farmers’ market, ask the grower the name of the variety and he or she can probably tell you what it tastes like and how to best use it.

The color and shape variety of cherry or grape tomatoes is incredible, too, from Cherokee purples to super sweets to yellow, torpedo shaped tomatoes.

Try several varieties for color, for taste — is it sweet or tart, acidic or neutral — and for firmness.

You’ll want some tomatoes for slicing to make that first sandwich of the season, mushy white bread, your favorite mayonnaise and maybe a little salt and pepper.

This also means it’s time for a drippy BLT, with thick cut bacon and crispy lettuce. Best on toast.

Also choose some to throw into any salad — tomatoes and watermelon are good together. Roast two handfuls of cherry tomatoes until they burst and serve it as a side dish, or just cook them in a sauté pan. Be careful — these get super hot inside.

The most pinned summer recipe on Pinterest is a salad of cucumber, tomato and onion. You just add 2 tablespoons of your favorite herb, like basil, 1 teaspoon of honey, 3 tablespoons of your favorite vinegar and 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil. Try it with a handful of fresh dill instead of basil, or add mint to the basil.

Tomatoes and avocado love each other. Stack them up with some fresh mozzarella for a quick salad. Chop them up with a little green onion and some grated garlic for a salsa.

Stuff tomatoes with chicken salad, tuna salad or shrimp salad — that will impress guests.

Tomatoes and olives go well together, too, that briny olive the perfect match for a sweet tomato. Make skewers of cherry tomatoes and olives as an appetizer, or serve a bowl of cherry tomatoes cut in half, tossed with Kalamata olives, a sprinkle of good olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Make a pot of orzo pasta, then quickly tip in a bag of baby spinach, just until wilted. Add feta cheese or asiago while the pasta is still warm, and mix spinach, cheese, salt and pepper to taste with the orzo. Let it cool and stuff a tomato with that. Add some fresh basil or tarragon.

I saw this on “The Pioneer Woman” and it seemed easy and delicious. I might cut back on the sugar, but it makes a very pretty dish.

Missy’s Marinated Tomatoes

1 cup canola oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

4 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 whole green onions, sliced

1/4 cup chopped parsley

18 whole basil leaves (chiffonade)

1/4 tsp. ground thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced finely

2 pounds tomatoes, cut into quarters if big, or halves if small

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes in a large glass bowl. Whisk to combine, then add tomatoes. Use regular red tomatoes or a mix of tomatoes, such as heirloom, cherry, yellow.

Allow to marinate for at least 3-4 hours. Tomatoes will give off liquid as they marinate.

Use as a side dish or to top slices of grilled or toasted baguette.

Tomato Pie

1 9-inch pie shell

1/2 cup chopped yellow or red onion (about 1/3 onion, diced)

or 1/2 cup chopped green onion

3-4 tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, squeezed to remove excess juice, roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sliced basil (about 8 large leaves)

2 cups grated cheese (combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack, or Gruyere or Mozzarella)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of hot sauce

Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-bake the crust: Preheat your oven to 350. If you are using a store-bought pie shell, follow the directions on the package for pre-baking, or pre-bake it in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes (a little longer for a frozen pie shell), until lightly browned.

Lightly salt the chopped tomatoes and set them in a colander over a bowl to drain while you are pre-baking the crust. Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels, a clean dish towel, or a potato ricer.

Sprinkle a layer of chopped onion over the bottom of your pre-baked pie crust shell. Spread the drained chopped tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the sliced basil over the tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, hot sauce, a sprinkling of  freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snowball. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.

Place in oven and bake at 350 degrees until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes.

Chop tomatoes or leave them whole, which is how I’ve made it every time. Try using Roma tomatoes, which do not have as much liquid as other varieties.

Crumble some bacon in it, if you want.

Tomato Cobbler

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large tomato, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 pounds assorted small tomatoes, divided

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (soft flour such as White Lily)

1/2 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces.

3/4 cup freshly shredded jarlsberg cheese

1/4 cup chopoped fresh basil

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté onion in oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5-6 minutes or until tender. Add chopped tomato, garlic and 1 1/2 cups small tomatoes and sauté 10 minutes or until tomatoes are softened. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, cornstarch, salt, pepper and thyme.

Place remaining small tomatoes in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Spoon onion mixture over tomatoes and gently toss to coat. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal and baking powder. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse peas; cover and chill 10 minutes. Stir cheese and basil and chives into the cold flour mixture. Add buttermilk and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Dollop mixture by 1/2 cupfuls onto the tomato mixture.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving.

If you’re feeling lazy, use Bisquick and cornmeal to make the topping.


Tomato Jam

3 pounds cored and chopped tomatoes

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cumin

This jam can be preserved or refrigerated. If preserving, prepare three half-pint jars and lids. Leave lids and rims in hot water until ready to use.

Combine tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, ginger, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, cinnamon and cumin in a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like, about 2 and a half hours.

Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims, cover with lids and screw band on until barely tight. Put jars on a wire rack in a pot and cover with water. Cover and bring water to a boil. Boil 15 minutes. Turn off heat, uncover pot and allow jars to rest in water for five minutes. Remove jars from pot and allow them to rest on the counter for six hours or overnight.

Some testers liked to add the zest from the lemon to the jam.