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Tomato season prompts savory new recipes

By Olga Watkins
Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 8:15 p.m.
 

Nothing exemplifies the taste of summer quite like a sun-kissed, perfectly ripe tomato, picked and eaten right off of the vine.

Raw, roasted, broiled, grilled, stuffed, sauteed or stewed, fresh tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits of the Pennsylvania summer. And, by definition, they are, indeed, a fruit.

Tomatoes have made their way into kitchens around the world, although their origin is Mesoamerican. By 500 B.C. they were being cultivated in southern Mexico. Much later, they were introduced to European cooks by the Spanish conquistador Herman Cortes, after his men captured what is known today as Mexico City from the Aztecs in 1521. Since then, tomatoes have been cultivated throughout the world with current, global production well over 150 million tons each year.

Over the course of 10 years, beginning in 2000, the Penn State Extension office in Chambersburg has tested more than 300 varieties of tomatoes for taste, production characteristics, disease-resistance and ease of training and appearance, culminating in the extension's 2011 Tomato Report, a resource for commercial growers.

The report includes 19 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and 10 varieties of what are classified as “slicers,” all of which are suited for the Pennsylvania climate.

Slicers will be more uniform in size, shape and color and are what you will find in your local grocery store along with a selection of cherry, grape and plum varieties.

Heirlooms come in a much-broader range of options, in terms of appearance. Heirlooms are grown in many shapes and sizes and can be red, yellow, green or purple and even a combination of multiple colors when ripe. Heirloom varieties have become more-popular again in recent years, despite their sometimes-exotic, if not odd, appearance, as they are widely thought to be the most-flavorful of tomato varieties.

When choosing tomatoes, the skin should be taut and shiny, but the flesh should give a little when you squeeze them gently.

If the tomatoes are still on the vine, then the vine and leaves should be attached tightly and green in color. They should not be brown or shriveled, and the tomatoes should not contain soft or rotten spots. Choose tomatoes from the top of the pile to avoid fruit that is bruised or that has been weighted down and may be smashed.

Selecting just a few recipes for fresh tomatoes is a little challenging, as there are so many wonderful ways to eat them.

Enjoy this tangy, acidic, sun-grazed taste of summer while it lasts.

Olga Watkins is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

Heirloom Tomato Pie

5-6 large heirloom tomatoes, different colors/varieties

Salt

1 deep-dish pie crust, uncooked

12 cup shredded Gouda or Swiss cheese

1 cup heavy mayonnaise

3 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped (basil, thyme, oregano and parsley work well)

12 cup extra-sharp shredded cheddar

13 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Core and slice the tomatoes to about a 12-inch thickness. Lay the tomatoes flat on a baking tray and sprinkle each with a pinch of salt. Allow them to sit for about 20 minutes before using them in the pie. Save the tomato juice that accumulates on the tray.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pie crust for 15 minutes. As soon as you remove it from the oven, sprinkle the shredded cheese over the bottom of the warm pie crust then allow it to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine the mayonnaise, herbs, reserved tomato juice, cheddar and 13 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl and whisk until combined. Put an even layer of tomatoes in the bottom of the pie pan then add a little freshly ground black pepper to each. Spoon a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture over each of the tomatoes then repeat that process until you have filled the pie pan. Spread any remaining mayonnaise mixture over the top of the tomatoes and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoon of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tomato-Basil Sauce

This sauce works well over cooked linguine noodles or on homemade flatbread or pizza. This recipe takes only minutes to make. I prefer small varieties of tomatoes such as cherry or grape or plum for this application.

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups very ripe, small tomatoes, halved or chopped to 1- to 2-inch pieces

12 cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces, plus full leaves to garnish the pasta

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cooked pasta, enough for 4 servings, or 2 12-inch flatbreads or pizzas

Parmesan-Reggiano shavings for the pasta

Slices of fresh mozzarella cheese for the flatbreads or pizzas

Heat the oil in a saute pan on high heat for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and toss continuously in the pan for about 3 minutes. Add the basil, salt and pepper, and toss for a few more seconds.

Serve the sauce over pasta, garnish with a few fresh basil leaves and Parmesan-Reggiano, and serve.

If using the sauce for flatbread or pizza, set it aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before putting it on the dough. Top with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and bake.

Makes enough sauce for 4 servings of pasta or 2 12-inch flatbreads or pizzas.

Spicy and Sweet Tomato Relish

Serve as a condiment for sandwiches or cheese trays or as a topping for grilled meats and fish.

2 very large tomatoes, diced (ripe but not too soft)

4 jalapeno peppers, 14-inch sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 red onion, diced

12 cup water

12 cup apple cider vinegar

12 cup sugar

2 teaspoons celery seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

12 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cleaned, cut vegetables in a large mixing bowl and fold together gently. Heat the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. The liquid should be almost boiling. When the sugar is dissolved, pour the liquid over the vegetables in the bowl.

Fold until all of the vegetables are coated, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. You can keep the relish tightly sealed in the refrigerator for as long as 4 weeks.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Bacon and Tomato Jam

This recipe is perfect for serving with a cheese tray or as a condiment for good crackers, party-size breads or homemade croutons. You can also try it as a topping for grilled chicken.

1 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

14 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons whiskey

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 tablespoon honey

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 pound bacon, 12-inch dice

1 large white onion, finely diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

In a small mixing bowl, combine the salt, pepper, brown sugar, white vinegar, whiskey, yellow mustard, honey and cayenne and whisk until thoroughly combined. In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, cook the bacon pieces until they begin to brown. Just before the bacon becomes crisp, add the onions and saute until they begin to soften. Add the bowl of seasonings and stir until the mixture begins to reduce. Add the tomatoes and the turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow the jam to reduce and thicken, stirring occasionally for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can adjust the salt, pepper, vinegar, honey and mustard to suit your taste at this point. After the jam has reduced, allow it to cool to room temperature before serving. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks. Warm the jam slightly to serve at room temperature.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

Stuffed Tomato With Curried Shrimp Salad

13 cup mayonnaise

12 tablespoon yellow curry paste (available in the ethnic-food aisle at most grocery stores or at Asian food markets)

2 medium tomatoes, ripe but not too soft

1 cup salad shrimp, cooked and chilled or defrosted

3 green onions, sliced

2 large basil leaves, sliced

1 tablespoon red bell or sweet pepper, finely diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 small basil leaves, for garnish

Combine the mayonnaise and curry paste in a mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Cut the core end off of each tomato. Cut a small sliver off of the bottom end of the tomatoes so they are free-standing. Use a spoon to hollow out each tomato, reserving any pieces of tomato large enough to dice or add back into the shrimp salad. In the bowl with the curry mixture, add the tomato pieces, shrimp, green onions, sliced basil and peppers and fold until all the shrimp is coated. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the shrimp salad between the 2 hollowed-out tomatoes, filling each with the salad. Garnish with a small basil leaf and serve.

You can make the salad a few hours before serving and keep it refrigerated. Assemble just before serving.

Makes 2 servings.

Tomato and Feta Salad

For the salad:

2-3 cups, tomato slices or wedges, varying colors

10-12 ounces crumbled feta or sliced goat cheese

1 tablespoon each fresh oregano and thyme

12 medium red onion, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups hearty salad greens, optional

For the dressing:

1 clove fresh garlic, minced

13 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To prepare the salad: Combine the tomatoes, cheese, herbs, onions, salt and pepper in a bowl and gently fold.

To prepare the dressing: Combine the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until thoroughly mixed.

If you are using salad greens, add the tomato mixture on top of the salad greens on a plate or in a serving bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Baked Eggs in Tomato Cups

2 medium tomatoes, not quite ripe

1 tablespoon Italian-seasoned bread crumbs

1 teaspoon melted butter

2 large eggs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

Few drops aged balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoon shaved Parmesan-Reggiano

2 large basil leaves, sliced or torn into small pieces

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice off the core end of the tomatoes, then slice a very thin piece off the bottom end of the tomato so it can stand on its own. Hollow out each tomato using a spoon, creating enough room in which to break a large egg. Use a fork to mix the bread crumbs into the melted butter. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray or in individual ramekins and break one egg into each of the tomato cups. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs on top of the eggs. Transfer the tomatoes to the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the eggs should begin to become firm. Top each tomato with the Parmesan-Reggiano shavings and return them to the oven for another 4 to 8 minutes or until the eggs are firm and the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar and the basil. Serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.

Quick and Spicy Gazpacho

1 can (48 ounces) V8 vegetable juice

12 cup shredded carrot

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons each fresh cilantro and basil, chopped

1-2 whole hot peppers of your choosing (jalapeno, habanero, banana, etc.)

12 cup of bell or sweet pepper, chopped

12 cup red onion, chopped

Juice of 12 of a lime and half of a lemon

2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2-3 dashes hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 fresh tomatoes, diced

12 cup whipped sour cream, for garnish

12 cup thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Combine the V8 juice, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, peppers, onion, lime and lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce and salt and pepper (in batches) in a blender and puree until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine the blended vegetables and V8 juice with the chopped tomatoes and adjust the salt and pepper. You can add more lemon/lime juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire at this point also. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. The longer the flavors sit together, the better combined and more intense they become. Make this a day ahead of time if you can. Ladle into soup cups and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a few slices of green onion to serve.

Makes 10 to 12 cups.

 

 
 


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