Recipe Column: It’s tomato season in the north
I think there should be five seasons-spring, summer, fall, winter and tomato season.
If I had my way, tomato season would be celebrated with parades and maybe even a tomato fair. There would be tomato cook-offs and tomato contests for the biggest, smallest and most unusual. And I even think a Tomato Queen would be appropriate.
I guess you get the idea that I think the tomato is the premiere garden vegetable, and I always grow plenty. In fact, this is the vegetable I love starting indoors, when the snow is still blowing and temperatures are raw. I tend the little shoots faithfully throughout the early spring months, waiting for the ground to thaw and the warmth to come so I can finally plant my little seedlings.
Right now my diligent tending is paying off. Early last week I was looking over my tomato patch and noticed a few turning a tell-tale orange and then just a few days ago I pulled some off the vine to finish ripening on my kitchen counter. BLTs rule as a lunch and supper favorite now and I have perfected this sandwich over the years to really highlight my home grown beauties.
First I get the freshest bread I can find. Sometimes I use French bread, and sometimes I get a good loaf of wheat. Then I cut the finest leaves of lettuce I can harvest and I purchase fresh cut bacon that is meaty and tender. My favorite dressing for this sandwich is Miracle Whip and once I have all my ingredients together, I eat BLT’s for days, and I have to admit, I never tire of them.
In a couple of weeks my plants will really start producing and then I will dust off my canner and start preserving tomatoes for the colder months. I find I use them often in goulashes, soups, chili and sometimes I just eat them right out of the jar, sprinkled with a little oregano, and drizzled with olive oil. I also freeze plenty, using those to make fresh batches of salsa for football parties and other gatherings.
I can remember with distinct clarity my mother also harvesting unripe specimens for one of her favorite dishes-Fried Green Tomatoes. Now that dish is a favorite of mine too, especially into the fall months, when my pantry shelves are stocked with quart jars filled with enough canned preserves for the winter and the time for frost is drawing near.
This week I have featured some favorite tomato recipes I have gathered over time. Every year it seems I find a new one and add that to my collection.
I know my proposal of adding a tomato season to the year will never fly globally, but as I stand out in my patch, watching more and more fruits start to ripen, I can’t help but think what fun this could really be. I’d love to the first ever Tomato Queen. Let the parade begin!
Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1/2 tsp. dried leaf oregano
1/2 tsp. dried leaf basil
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 to 4 slices bacon, cooked and diced
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
In a covered jar or blender container, combine the apple juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, onion, oregano, basil, and pepper. Process or shake for about 1 minute to blend thoroughly. Refrigerate until serving time. On a serving plate, layer the shredded or chopped lettuce, the sliced tomatoes, bacon pieces, and shredded Cheddar cheese. Just before serving, drizzle the salad with the apple juice herb vinaigrette.
3 large tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. diced purple onion
2 to 3 jalapeno or serrano chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. lime juice
Combine all ingredients and stir well. Store in refrigerator for use within a day or two, or pureè in blender and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Serve with grilled chicken or fish, or along with burritos, tacos, or other Mexican style meals.
Tomato Dill Dressing
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream, light or full fat
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
dash freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbs. grated red onion or sweet onion
3 to 4 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, dried dill, salt, pepper, and onion. Stir to blend and serve with the sliced tomatoes. (This dressing is also good as a dip with other veggies.)
Baked Parmesan Tomatoes
4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Tomato Bread Salad
8 cups cubed Italian or French bread
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cup minced fresh basil
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. cider or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
In a large bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes, basil and onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients; drizzle over bread mixture. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.