The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 23, 2012

Use Your Summer Tomatoes

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — One of the most wonderful things about summer is fresh tomatoes. I could eat them three times a day. The tomatoes that we find in the market during the winter just aren’t the same. They don’t taste like they are even in the same family. Of course that’s because they are picked green and shipped all over the country. However, during the glorious days of summer, we can find fresh, ripe locally grown tomatoes almost anywhere. Do you have tomatoes yet? We don't and I can hardly wait! Our plants look great but alas, no tomatoes yet.

Tomatoes are also very good for us. They are high in anti-oxidants and lycopene and an average tomato only has 35 calories. So, enjoy the bounty of summer tomatoes and improve your health at the same time.

Here are a few recipes to help you use up those wonderful members of the fruit family that we consider vegetables!

The first recipe is simple yet delicious. It also uses ingredients you probably have in your cupboard. For the topping, use crushed saltine crackers or breadcrumbs, depending on preference and availability. You can also add any other spices that you like with tomatoes.

The second recipe is a great to spread on Wheat Thins for an appetizer or use as a dip. It can also be used as a sandwich spread for cucumber sandwiches. Again, it uses products that are commonly kept in the cupboard.

Recipe number three uses red, yellow and green tomatoes. That is partially for the beautiful color variations, although each of those tomatoes will taste a little different. If you only have red tomatoes, try the salsa anyway. It’s worth it. You can always add orange or yellow bell pepper for color and a different taste. When I make tomato salsa, I don’t like it hot, so I leave out the Jalapeño and substitute basil for the cilantro.  

The last recipe is Tomato Gravy. It isn’t gravy like milk gravy, but it has cream and so can be considered a gravy or a sauce. This recipe also uses ingredients in your kitchen with the possible exception of the whipping cream.

Try these easy, quick summer tomato recipes for a great way to use up those tomatoes. If you have other great summer veggie recipes, please Facebook them to me or give me a call and I’ll write them down.

Scalloped Tomatoes

1/4-Cup Butter

1-Cup Bread Cubes

1 Medium Onion

4 Strips Bacon

2 Tbsp. Sugar

2 1/2 Cups Cut-Up Tomatoes

Dash Tabasco

Dash of Dried Sweet Basil (add more or less depending on taste desired)

Crushed Saltine Crackers, for topping

1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

   (or other cheese if preferred)

Melt the butter in a medium skillet; add bread cubes and brown lightly. Add more butter if needed and lightly brown onions. Fry bacon in a separate skillet; drain bacon and crumble into the butter and bread mixture.

Add sugar, tomatoes, Tabasco, and basil; mix together well. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole dish. Cover with crushed crackers or breadcrumbs. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes. Add cheese on top for the last 15 minutes.

Tomato and Bacon Spread

1 Package Cream Cheese, softened, (8 Oz)

1 Tbsp Mayonnaise

Garlic Salt, to taste

1 Tomato, peeled & chopped

6-8 Slices Bacon

In a bowl, blend cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth. Add garlic powder and tomatoes. Cook bacon until crispy; drain well and crumble. Add bacon to cream cheese mixture when ready to serve. Serve as a sandwich spread or appetizer spread with party rye rounds or as a party dip.

Three Tomato Salsa

1 Large Red Tomato, seeded, diced

1 Large Yellow Tomato, seeded, diced

1 Large Green Tomato, seeded, diced

1/4 cup coarsely Chopped Cilantro

1/4 Cup Chopped Onion, rinsed, drained

1 Jalapeño chile, seeded if desired, minced

   (seeding removes some of the heat)

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

3/4 Tsp Salt

2 Tbsp Lime Juice

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, onion, cilantro and chile. With side of knife, mash garlic with 3/4 tsp salt to form a paste, place in a small bowl. Stir in the lime juice. Toss with tomato mixture.

Serve over steak, grilled chicken or grilled pork.

Tomato Gravy

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, Minced

4 Green Onions, Finely Chopped (White Part Only)

3 Large Ripe Tomatoes, Peeled, Seeded, Finely Chopped

1/2-Cup Whipping Cream

1/4-Tsp Salt

1/4-Tsp Ground Red Pepper

1/2-Tsp Dried Thyme

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot; add garlic and green onions. Cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add chopped tomato; reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in whipping cream and remaining ingredients; simmer, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.

Serve over chicken, fish, or pasta. Makes 2 cups.

Did You Know?

“Tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and fiber, and are cholesterol free. An average size tomato (148 gram, or 5 oz) boasts only 35 calories. Furthermore, new medical research suggests that the consumption of lycopene - the stuff that makes tomatoes red - may prevent cancer. Lycopene is part of the family of pigments called carotenoids, which are natural compounds that create the colors of fruits and vegetables. For example, beta-carotene is the orange pigment in carrots. As with essential amino acids, they are not produced by the human body. Lycopene is the most powerful antioxidant in the carotenoid family and, with vitamins C and E, protect us from the free radicals that degrade many parts of the body.

Sunlight doesn't ripen tomatoes, warmth does. Store tomatoes with stems pointed down and they will stay fresher, longer.

Stand up peppers: When cooking stuffed peppers, place them upright in a bundt pan. It keeps them from falling over and can also be used as a serving dish.

Flexible Fridge Protector: Use cheap, flexible cutting mats to cover the shelves of the refrigerator. They are easy to remove for cleaning and will keep liquids from dripping onto food on the shelf below.

Easy greasing: Before greasing molded pans, freeze them for 5 minutes.  Then when you brush on the melted butter or shortening, it will adhere right away and you’ll be able to tell at a glance if you’ve missed any areas.

For best flavor, store tomatoes at room temperature.