It’s time to harvest a bounty of tomatoes

One of the most popular garden crops, these summer treats are also one of the most versatile fruits

    Tomatoes are in season, so it’s time to consider what to do with an abundant crop.
     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.
    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.
    Following are tomato recipes from

Pico De Gallo With Cabbage

2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cups white onion, diced
2 cups green cabbage, chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, minced
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped, firmly packed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons sea salt

    Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve with chips for scooping or on top of your favorite tacos.
    Makes six servings.

Tomato and Avocado Bruschetta

1 baguette, 1-inch slices cut at an extreme angle
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 10-ounce containers cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
3 small or 1 large clove of garlic, minced, divided
2 avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

    Using a pastry brush, dab bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder. Broil four to five minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
    In a small bowl, mix remaining olive oil with the seeded tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and half the garlic. Set aside.
    In a separate bowl, mash avocado. Mix in the remaining garlic, lemon juice, half of the basil, salt and pepper.
    Spread each baguette slice with one to two tablespoons avocado mixture. Evenly divide tomatoes among the avocado toasts. Sprinkle with remaining basil and additional flake salt if desired.
    Makes 10 servings.

Smoky Grilled Salmon With Avocado Salad

1-1/2 to 2 pounds salmon filet
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 limes
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
For avocado salad:
2 slightly firm avocados, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup cilantro
2 ears cooked or grilled corn, corn cut off cob
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

    Set salmon filet in the center of a large piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Squeeze limes over the salmon and bring edges of foil together to wrap the salmon.
    In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for avocado salad. Stir well and set aside.
    Set foiled salmon directly on medium hot grill. Close lid and cook for 12 minutes.
    Remove from grill and check for doneness. Salmon should be opaque and flaky, not dry.
    Makes four servings.


Peach and Tomato Caprese Salad

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 fresh peaches, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 pounds tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into bite size pieces (remove seeds and juices if plentiful)
4 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into bite-size pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

    In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, garlic, sugar, olive oil and salt until fully incorporated.
    Add peaches, tomatoes and basil. Toss with dressing. Mix in mozzarella.
    Sprinkle with fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
    You can also slice the peaches, tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange on a platter, then drizzle with dressing.
    Makes six servings.

Italian Baked Chicken Meatballs

2 pounds roma tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds ground chicken
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoons dried fennel seed, optional
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh basil, optional
Cooked pasta, for serving, optional

    Toss tomato halves along with fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl. Arrange tomatoes on a large baking sheet, cut side up.
    In the same bowl, use your hands to combine ground chicken, remaining salt, eggs, fennel, Parmesan cheese, garlic and bread crumbs. Form uniform meatballs of about two tablespoons mixture each. Arrange meatballs on the baking sheet between tomato halves.
    Roast meatballs and tomatoes on center rack of a 450-degree oven about 30 minutes, until tomatoes begin to soften and are slightly browned. Turn heat up to 500 degrees and brush meatballs with olive oil. Cook another five minutes.
    Once tomatoes and meatballs are roasted, toss with cooked spaghetti, 1/4 cup olive oil, fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Fresh Restaurant Style Salsa

3 tablespoons canola oil
8 to 10 almost over-ripe roma tomatoes
2 to 3 jalapeños
1 white onion, cut in half
6 whole garlic cloves
1 cup canned, crushed tomatoes
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt
1 ripe avocado

    In a large pot, heat oil over high heat. Crowd tomatoes, jalapeños, half the white onion and garlic in a single layer in pan. Allow to cook without turning until vegetables are charred, about three to five minutes. Turn over and repeat.
    Once charred, reduce heat to low and cover pot. Simmer 15 minutes, then remove from heat and cool completely.
    Place charred vegetables in a food processor, starting with one jalapeño at a time along with crushed tomatoes. Add cilantro, salt and other half of the white onion. Blend on low until desired texture is achieved. If not spicy enough, add more jalapeños, one at a time.
    Add avocado and pulse until mixed in. Adjust salt as needed.
    Store for as long as one week in refrigerator in an airtight container.


Pasta With Tomato Cream Sauce

1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
15 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
8 fresh basil leaves
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh arugula, optional
1 cup fresh tomatoes

    In a large, non-reactive saucepan, stir together crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, olive oil, basil and salt. Bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce to low heat. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring often. If sauce isn’t as thick as desired, cook another five minutes.
    Once sauce is thickened, add cream and cheese and stir until combined. Add cooked pasta and stir over medium/low heat until pasta is coated in sauce.
    Serve topped with fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes and more shaved cheese.
    Makes four servings.

Beef Kofta Kababs With Tzatziki

For kofta:
2 pounds ground beef
1/2 onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sumac, optional
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For serving:
Flat leaf parsley
Fresh feta
Red onions
Olive oil
Pita bread

Heat grill to medium high heat.
    Run onion through a food processor fit with the grating attachment or grate by hand. Lay onion on a paper towel and squeeze to wring out excess liquid.
    Combine ground beef, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, rosemary, cumin, oregano, sumac and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Mix meat and spices together using your hands. Set aside for as long as a day to allow flavors to blend.
    Mold about 1/2 cup meat around the end of each skewer. Lay the meat on an oiled grill heated to medium-high and cook eight to 10 minutes, rotating the skewers with tongs every two to three minutes, until cooked through.
    You may also arrange kofta on skewers on a lightly greased or lined baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven about 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
    Serve kofta skewers hot with warm pita, hummus, tzatziki sauce, fresh feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and sliced red onions.
    Makes four servings.


Baked Chicken Thighs With Asparagus

3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
6 medium sized shallots, quartered
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 mixed olives, pitted

    Pat chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and season with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper both sides.
    Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven or other ovenproof skillet. Sear chicken about eight minutes, skin side down, until skin is golden brown. Flip chicken and cook five minutes longer. Remove chicken from pan, set aside.
    Reduce heat to medium. Add shallots to pan and cook three to five minutes, until they begin to brown. Add garlic and sauté one minutes longer.
    Add whole sprigs of thyme, wine and mustard, stirring until combined. Simmer two minutes before adding cherry tomatoes and olives. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    Place the asparagus in the bottom of the pan with the olives and tomatoes. Add chicken to pan, skin side up, and bake in 375-degree oven for 35 minutes.
    Makes six servings.

Braised Tomatoes With Burrata

2/3 cup olive oil
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large basil leaves, roughly torn
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 to 8 ounces burrata cheese
Crusty bread, toasted

    Heat olive oil in an oven-proof, non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Add tomatoes, salt, basil and garlic and cover. Allow to braise for 20 minutes, then remove lid and remove from heat.
    While still hot, set the skillet under the broiler. Broil five to eight minutes, just until tomatoes begin to char.
    Arrange burrata on a large plate. While still hot, spoon tomatoes over burrata, season to taste and serve warm with crusty bread.
    Makes eight servings.




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