I don't have to tell all the gardeners out there that this has been a strange year - they already know it. The rain has been erratic, and the temperature has sagged just when we needed the heat to kick in.
As long as the garden keeps growing and producing, anything summer throws at you seems to be bearable - until it affects the tomato crop. Then, it becomes personal. Or at least emotional.
That's because nothing equals the taste of a fully ripened on-the-vine, fresh-picked tomato. And this year, they have been slow in coming and unpredictable in abundance.
So, if you've got them, better enjoy them completely right now.
These also can be made on the outdoor grill. Broil green or red tomato halves, cut-side up, three inches from heat about five minutes or until hot all the way through. Dot with butter or drizzle with infused olive oil; season and sprinkle with crushed herbs. Any combination of parsley, dillweed, basil, thyme or savory works good.
A good sauce for broiled tomatoes can be made quickly by combining equal portions of sour cream and mayonnaise. Add finely chopped onion and a little sprinkling of herbs.
If you like a tangy sauce, add a dash of horseradish to the sourcream/mayonnaise mix.
- This is a simplified version of Bruschetta, as in tomato sandwich. The cheese is optional.
2 large ripe tomatoes
3 or 4 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 slices Italian bread, 1-inch thick, toasted
garlic salt or powder
4 slices mozzarella cheese
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, onions, parsley, olive oil and vinegar. Set aside.
Toast Italian bread. Sprinkle with garlic salt or powder. Divide the tomato mixture on top of the bread slices. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese. Stick under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt.
Fresh tomato sauce
- This is a simple recipe and a great one to use up all those imperfect ripe tomatoes. Who among us doesn't love pasta with tomato sauce?
I like to use a combination of tomatoes for this sauce; beefsteak and Roma work well together.
Makes approximately 3 cups
4 Tbsps. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups chopped fresh red ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsps. sugar
2 tsps. chopped fresh basil
2 tsps. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
In large, nonreactive saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the garlic for just a minute or so. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar. Stir to combine. Add fresh or dried herbs. Turn heat down to create a slow simmer, and let cook for about 20 minutes while you prepare pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over fresh-cooked pasta.
This basic recipe will work with canned, crushed tomatoes, too. Instead of the fresh tomatoes add one quart canned crushed tomatoes and one 6-ounce can of tomato paste. Adjust the salt accordingly, since canned tomatoes and paste will have salt added.
Fried green tomatoes
- This first version is from "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe," a novel by Fannie Flagg and movie starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy.
They are among my favorite books and movies - both are classics. The book, however, is a bit darker in tone. If you haven't read Fannie Flagg lately, check her out - she writes everything from vignettes for tea boxes to terrific novels that will keep you awake at night.
1 medium green tomato (per person)
Slice tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick, season with salt and pepper and then coat both sides with cornmeal. In a large skillet, heat enough bacon drippings to coat the bottom of the pan, and fry tomatoes until lightly browned on both sides.
You'll think you've died and gone to heaven!
3 Tbsp. bacon fat
4 firm green tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Dry bread crumbs
Heat your bacon fat in a heavy frying pan. Dip tomatoes in eggs, then in bread crumbs. Slowly fry them in the bacon fat until golden brown on both sides. Put your tomatoes on a plate. For each tablespoon of fat left in the pan, stir in 1 tablespoon of flour and blend well; then stir in 1 cup warm milk and cook until thickened, stirring constantly Add salt and pepper till you like it. Pour over the tomatoes and serve hot. The best there is.