It’s time to harvest your garden tomatoes

These colorful fruits add a lot of flavor and nutrition to everything from appetizers to main dishes

We’re getting to tomato season, when the bright red and orange orbs are at their peak.

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 catsup 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.

Or a tomato watermelon salad. Combine 4 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes with 2 cups coarsely chopped watermelon, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 2 tablespoons chopped mint. Top with chopped pistachios.

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 they will lose flavor.

When cutting tomatoes, a serrated knife works 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.

And 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 loveandlemons.com.

 

loveandlemons.com

 

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

 

3 cups uncooked fusilli pasta

2 heaping cups halved cherry tomatoes

1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 cups arugula

1 cup Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half moons

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup basil leaves, torn

1/2 cup minced parsley

1/2 cup chopped mint

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Dressing

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence or dried Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to package directions, until slightly past al dente.

Make the dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, and salt in a small bowl. The dressing will have a strong flavor that will mellow once it coats all of the pasta salad ingredients.

Drain pasta, toss with a little olive oil  and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl with the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, cucumbers, feta cheese, basil, parsley, mint and pine nuts. Add dressing and toss to coat. Season to taste with more lemon, salt, pepper, and/or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired, then serve.

Makes six servings.

 

 

Creamy Tomato Soup

 

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

4 medium fresh tomatoes

1 small yellow onion, sliced into quarters

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1/3 cup cooked chickpeas

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heaping 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

For croutons:

8 slices seven grain bread

Heaping 1/2 cup mozzarella

 

Wrap garlic cloves in a piece of foil and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the whole tomatoes and onion wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and roast in a 450-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until tomatoes and onions are well browned. Peel garlic and transfer the roasted vegetables to a blender.

Add chickpeas, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, thyme leaves, olive oil, red pepper flakes, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to blender and blend until creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings. The soup should still be hot — if not, pour it into a pot to reheat.

Sprinkle four slices of bread with a thin layer of cheese. Top with remaining bread slices to make sandwiches, then drizzle the outsides of the bread with olive oil. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven about eight minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Cool completely before slicing into croutons.

Serve soup with some croutons in the soup and others on the side. Add more fresh thyme, red pepper flakes and chickpeas, if desired.

Makes three to four servings.

 

 

Linguine With Lemon and Tomatoes

 

1 cup roasted tomatoes

4 very thin lemon slices

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

6 ounces linguine pasta

1-1/2 cups arugula

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

3 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup fresh basil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Place lemon slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Finely mince the lemons and set aside.

In the bottom of a medium-sized pot, combine  olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, cooking until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, then scoop hot pasta into the pot with the garlic, along with the reserved pasta water and arugula. Toss. If necessary, gently heat until the arugula wilts and pasta is warmed through. Add the thyme, tomatoes, lemons, and toss again. Top with mozzarella, pine nuts, and basil. Gently toss, season to taste and serve.

Makes two servings.

 

 

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

 

4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 Vidalia onions or 1 small yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces

5 small pattypan squash, sliced in half

2 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces

10 cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Leaves from 8 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

1 16-ounce package brown rice penne pasta

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil, more for garnish

Juice of 1/2 small lemon, more if desired

Pinches of red pepper flakes

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Place carrots and onions on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and pattypan squash, zucchini, and tomatoes on a second parchment-lined baking . Drizzle both sheets with olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper.

Place the sheet with carrots and onions in a 400-degree oven and roast 30 to 35 minutes, until the onions are tender and lightly charred and the carrots are tender and browned. Place the second sheet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, until the squash and zucchini are golden brown around the edges and the tomatoes are lightly bursting. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic, herbes de Provence, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper. Stir in roasted vegetables.

Prepare pasta according to the instructions, cooking until al dente. Drain pasta and transfer to the bowl with the roasted vegetables. Toss to coat.

Add feta, basil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and gently toss. Season  to taste with more salt, pepper and lemon juice as desired.

Garnish with fresh herbs and a generous drizzle of olive oil.

Makes four to six servings.

 

 

Tomato, Basil and Artichoke Picnic Sandwich

 

For basil-edamame spread:

1-1/2 cups edamame

1/4 cup basil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped scallions

1/2 small garlic clove

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For sandwiches:

1 large baguette

Handful of baby salad greens or arugula

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, sliced

10 basil leaves

10 jarred roasted artichokes, cut into quarters or roughly chopped

Pine nuts, optional

 

Place edamame, basil, lemon juice, scallions, garlic and sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until chopped. Add  olive oil and blend until smooth. Add as much as three tablespoons water to create a smooth, spreadable consistency. Season to taste and chill until ready to use. Spread can be stored in the fridge for three to four days.

Slice one large baguette in half and assemble with basil-edamame spread, greens, tomatoes, basil, artichokes and pine nuts. Close baguette, wrap it in foil and place in the fridge. Slice into four individual servings and serve.

Makes four servings.

 

 

 

Burrata With Heirloom Tomatoes

 

 

For lemon-thyme oil:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

Peel from 1 small lemon

4 thyme sprigs

For burrata platter:

4 heirloom tomatoes

1 ripe peach, sliced

1 8-ounce ball fresh burrata

1/2 cup fresh basil and/or mint leaves

1 tablespoon toasted pistachios, chopped

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

A few cherries or fresh currants, optional

Toasted bread, for serving

 

Combine oil, garlic, lemon peel and thyme in a small saucepan over low heat. Gently warm the mixture, then turn off the heat. Let steep for 20 minutes, then strain.

Assemble tomatoes, peach slices and burrata on a platter. Sprinkle with salt, then drizzle with some of the lemon-thyme oil. Top with basil and mint and sprinkle with pistachios. Top with cherries and currants, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with toasted bread.

Makes four servings.

 

 

 

Tomato Bruschetta

 

4 small tomatoes, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, one grated, one halved

1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

6 to 8 slices rustic country bread

Fresh basil

6 Kalamata olives, finely chopped, optional

2 tablespoons capers, optional

 

In a medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, grated garlic, vinegar, salt and several grinds of pepper. Stir in olives and capers, if using.

Drizzle bread slices with olive oil and grill until lightly charred or toast in the oven. Use the cut-side of the garlic halves to rub garlic onto the hot bread. Top with the tomato mixture and fresh basil.

Makes four to six servings.

 

 

 

 

Veggie Frittata Muffins

 

8 large eggs

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 small kale leaves, finely shredded

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup scallions

1/3 cup crumbled feta

 

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, garlic, Dijon mustard, most of the dill (reserve a little for garnish), salt and pepper. Pour a bit of the egg mixture into the bottom of each of 12 muffin cups that have been coated with cooking spray. Divide kale, tomatoes, scallions and feta into each cup then pour the remaining egg mixture on top.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until the eggs are set. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with remaining dill. Store any remaining frittatas in the fridge for as long as two days.

Makes 12 servings.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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