A bounty of tomatoes greets gardeners

It’s time to pick those bright red and yellow orbs for use in a variety of dishes suitable for every meal

    It’s time to harvest the annual tomato crop.
    Tomatoes are one of the most popular fruits around, offering a host of nutritional benefits while tasting good at the same time.
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every American eats more than 22 pounds of tomatoes a year — most in the form of ketchup or tomato sauce.
    But this time of year, it’s tomatoes fresh off the vine that tempt people. Their flavor can’t be beat, and it marries well with most other foods.
    Try making a simple caprese salad of halved cherry tomatoes with small pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, a little olive oil and salt.
    Scoop out cherry tomatoes to create edible cups for fish or egg salads, herbed cheeses or caviar as an appetizer.
    Medium-sized tomatoes can also be hollowed out to create a bowl for side dishes or filled with various stuffings for an edible side dish.
    Just remember to turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain for about 10 minutes before filling them.
    When picking tomatoes, choose those that are brightly colored and heavy. Avoid those with shriveled skin, blemishes, bruises or cracks.
    Ripe tomatoes should yield to pressure, but not be too soft.
    Don’t be afraid of tomatoes that are a light red or even green. They will ripen if you store them in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
    Whatever you do, don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator or you will lose flavor.
    When cutting tomatoes, a serrated knife will work best.
    If your tomatoes are overly acidic, add a sprinkle of salt and sugar to bring out the flavor. If you’re making sauce, add a grated carrot, which will dissolve and add sweetness but no hint of the carrot flavor.
    Don’t use aluminum pots, cans or utensils. The acid in the tomatoes will react with the aluminum, making the cooked tomatoes bitter and potentially pitting and discoloring the cookware.
    Combine tomatoes with herbs such as basil, oregano, marjoram, pepper, dill, thyme, garlic, bay leaf, celery seed, sesame seed, tarragon, chives or parsley.
    Following are tomato recipes from www.whiteonricecouple.com.



Peach and Heirloom Tomato Salad

3 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
2 medium heirloom tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
Kosher or sea salt
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled in large chunks
Fresh thyme sprigs, optional

    In jar or medium bowl, combine oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, thyme and salt.
    On plate, assemble sliced peaches, tomatoes and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle vinaigrette on top. If desired, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.
    Makes four servings.


Tomato, Bacon and Blue Cheese Pizza

10 ounces pizza dough, room temperature
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices thick cut bacon
1/4 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cups crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cups grated provolone
Olive oil for brushing edge of crust
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves, larger leaves torn into halves or quarters

    Preheat oven and baking stone to 550 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
    On a floured surface, shape dough into a disk 1-1/2-inches thick. Set aside on floured surface for 20 minutes.
    Combine sliced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. Gently toss tomatoes to coat, then set aside.
    Cook bacon in a saute pan until light golden on each side. Blot on paper towels. After bacon cools enough to handle, slice into one-inch long pieces. Set aside.
    Pizza dough should be soft and pillowy. On a floured surface, flour both sides of the dough then, using your fingers, rotate and push the dough from the center to stretch it, leaving the outer rim untouched. Stretch to a seven to eight-inch circle.
    Resting the dough on the tops of your hands, continue to circle and gently stretch dough to about 10 inches, making sure the rim is thicker than the center. If the dough starts to toughen and spring back too much while working it, allow it to rest for a few minutes, then try again.
    Brush top and edges of the pizza dough with a light coat of olive oil. Place on a floured pizza peel or, if you’re not using a baking stone, a lightly oiled sheet pan. Adjust shape to a circle.
    Gently spread a light layer of tomato sauce over dough, leaving the outer 3/4 inch untouched. Layer on bacon. Spread on cheeses. Occasionally give pizza peel a shake to make sure dough isn’t sticking to it. If it is, gently lift edges, toss a little flour underneath, and shake peel until dough no longer sticks.
    Layer tomato halves, cut side up. Slide pizza onto baking stone and bake for eight to 10 minutes, until crust is golden and a touch charred in places.
    Remove from oven and for a few minutes. Drizzle with a bit of the balsamic mix and sprinkle basil leaves over top. Slice and serve.


Tomato Crisp

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges or sliced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely minced Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, optional
1 tablespoon minced or crushed garlic
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

    Put cut tomatoes into a buttered two-quart baking dish. Toss with cornstarch and season lightly with salt and pepper.
    Combine flour, cheese, parsley, thyme, garlic, brown sugar and one teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.
    Pinch butter into the flour mixture or cut it into the flour mix with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse sand. Work in the oats with your fingers until evenly distributed.
    Spread the crisp topping over the tomatoes. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 45 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
    Makes six servings.


Grilled Tomato Skewers on Toast

1 pound cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves  garlic, finely minced
Sliced crusty bread
1 cup ricotta cheese, softened goat cheese or other favorite cheese.
    Soak 10 to 12 bamboo skewers in water for about 30 minutes
    Wash and dry cherry tomatoes. Remove the stems, if desired.
    In large bowl, combine oil, Worcestershire and garlic. Add cherry tomatoes and toss to coat.
    Skewer four or five tomatoes on each skewer, reserving marinade. Season with salt and pepper.
    Heat grill to medium/high heat.
    Grill tomato skewers for three to four minutes on each side, until cooked.
    Brush reserved marinade on the sliced crusty bread. If more marinade is needed, add a little more oil. Grill both sides of the bread until crispy.
    Spread cheese on slices of bread, top with tomatoes and serve.
    Makes six servings.


Tomato  Jams

For sweet and spicy jam:
1 pound tomatoes, roughly cut (some varieties may need to be peeled)
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1/2 serrano chili, seeded and finely diced
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
For tomato jam with ginger:
1 pound tomatoes, roughly cut (some varieties may need to be peeled)
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons lime
For tomato and thyme jam:
1 pound tomatoes, roughly cut (some varieties may need to be peeled)
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely minced
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

    Combine all ingredients for the jam of your choice in a saucepan. Simmer about an hour over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and gently, until the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency
    Place jam into sterilized jars.  Store in the refrigerator for a couple weeks or, for longer storage, can in a water bath, covering with water about one inch above jars and simmering for about 15 minutes.


Tomato Tart With Pesto and Onions

For crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup cold water
For filling:
1 pound fresh tomatoes, slices about 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup pesto
1/2 medium onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
3 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon  fresh thyme leaves, optional
Kosher or finishing salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
    In a large bowl, pinch together flour, butter and salt with fingertips until most of the big chunks of butter are flattened or broken up.  Incorporate the cold water into the flour until the mixture binds together and forms a rough ball. You may need to gently knead it to incorporate the last of the flour.
    Flatten the ball into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
    On a floured surface, roll dough into a circle slightly larger than your tart pan. Gently place the dough in the tart pan, pinching off the excess dough. Press the bottom of the tart with your fingers.
    Spread pesto over the crust. Lightly layer in onions, covering the bottom of the tart. Layer tomatoes on top of the onions, then crumble goat cheese into large chunks and spread over the tart. Sprinkle with thyme leave. Season tart with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until cheese and edges of tomatoes start to char and crust is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Heirloom Tomato Galette

For filling:
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, optional
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
For crust and finishing:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup cold water
Heavy cream or egg wash
3 to 4 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch- thick
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

    In a bowl, mix Parmesan, cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, thyme and pepper until well combined. Set aside.
    In a separate bowl, pinch together the flour, butter and salt with your fingertips until most of the big chunks of butter are flattened or broken up. Incorporate cold water until the mixture binds together and forms a rough ball. You may need to gently knead the ball to incorporate the last of the flour.
    Flatten the ball into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.
    On a floured surface, roll disk out to a circle slightly larger than 10 inches in diameter. Trim dough into an even 10-inch circle. Gently wrap the dough around a rolling pin, then unroll it onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Spoon Parmesan–cream cheese mixture in the center of dough, spreading mixture out to within two inches of the edge.
    Place one to two layers of sliced tomatoes over the cheese mixture. Fold the edge of the dough over the tomatoes. Brush the crust with the cream or egg wash. Season crust and tomatoes with salt and pepper.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is golden, rotating halfway through so the galette bakes evenly. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Baked Tomatoes With Parmesan Cheese and Fresh Herbs

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or herbs

    Place tomatoes on baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese to cover the tomato. Sprinkle chopped herbs on top.
    Bake in a 450-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese has melted and or tomatoes are cooked to your preferred texture.
    Makes two servings.


Tomato Tart

For dough:
1 cup flour
Pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in small chunks
3/4 cup heavy cream
For pesto:
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup fresh, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh lemon juice
Fresh tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

    Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Add brown sugar and butter, then pinch butter with flour until it is the size of small peas.  Pour in heavy cream and mix to form a soft dough, being careful not to over-mix.
    On a well floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut into three-inch rounds  Poke holes in dough with a fork, then carefully transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake in 375-degree oven for 15 minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool.
    Combine basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a food processor or mortar and pestle. Process or pound the ingredients, then slowly add olive oil, adjusting the amount to taste. Season with fresh lemon juice and mix. Cover and refrigerate.
    Spread a layer of pesto on the crust rounds. Add sliced tomatoes, then finish with freshly grated or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and basil leaves.
    Makes nine servings.


Bacon Lettuce Tomato Spring Rolls

Fresh lettuce, torn or chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 pieces bacon, cooked
Fresh basil, mint or other herbs
Rice paper
Avocado slices, optional
For sesame-soy dipping sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, optional
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha or any hot sauce, optional

     Fill a large bowl with warm water. Gently dip each rice paper wrapper in water for a few seconds until damp, taking care not to over-soak the paper.
    Place rice paper on plate or working surface. On the third of the rice paper closest to you, layer lettuce, tomatoes and bacon.
    Roll the rice paper over the fillings, tucking and rolling the wrapper with your fingers and making sure the fillings remain within the wrapper.
    Combine dipping sauce ingredients in a small Mason jar. Close lid and shake vigorously for 15 seconds, until well combined.
    Serve rolls and sauce immediately, or cover rolls with plastic wrap and eat within a few hours.
    Makes four servings.





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