Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Tomatoes
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A Taste of Summer: Fresh TomatoesA Taste of Summer: Fresh Tomatoes

By Brenda Hyde

Fresh, homegrown tomatoes are one of the first things that come to mind for many gardeners and vegetable lovers around the world when they think of summer. If you don't grow tomatoes, be on the lookout for neighbors selling their extra bounty, or Farmers' Markets in your area. This is the prime season for tomatoes, and the selection of color, shape and taste is amazing when you venture outside the standard varieties.

Look for tomatoes that are firm, but have a little bit of give, and are free of blemishes or what looks like wrinkles on the skin. The wrinkled look is a sign of age, and usually means the tomato is not fresh. If the tomato is hard, it means it is not ripe.  Color isn’t always an indication since there are many different colored varieties of tomatoes such as white, black, orange, pink and yellow.

Fresh ripe tomatoes should be stored in a cool location if possible, but not in the refrigerator. Once they are sliced, then they should be covered and stored in the refrigerator for a short period until needed. Unripe tomatoes will not ripen once they are refrigerated. 

A simple method to finish ripening is to place the tomato in a paper sack on the counter or shelf. If you want to speed up the ripening, add a small apple to the bag. You should only do this to an unripe tomato because the ethylene gas given off by the apple will cause a ripe tomato to go bad quickly.

While nothing is better than a fresh sliced tomato with a little salt sprinkled over it, there are a few simple, delicious recipes that I’ve used over the years. The following recipes use a combination of tomatoes and fresh basil with other ingredients to create mouth-watering dishes.

 

Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Herbs

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil

4 tbsp. wine or herb vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 cup or so fresh basil leaves, minced

1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves

2 cucumbers, more if very small

4 medium sized ripe tomatoes

1/2 red onion

 

Mince the garlic and add to the oil in a small bowl. Set aside while preparing the salad. Mince the oregano and basil with a very sharp knife or herb chopper. Add the herbs to the oil in a glass jar or container. Set aside.

Wash and peel the cucumbers, then cut into thin slices. Wash and remove the stems of the tomatoes. Slice 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Slice the red onion as thin as possible. Place the tomatoes, cucumbers and onion on a large platter or plate. Be decorative, overlapping, but trying not to cover any slice completely. Sprinkle the tomatoes and cucumber with the salt, and lastly place the onions on top. 

Combine the oil and the vinegar mixtures, whisking well and drizzling over the vegetables before serving.

 

Simple Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients:

8-10 ounces pasta, cooked and drained

1 cup fresh basil

1 tbsp. minced garlic

4-5 medium tomatoes, chopped

3 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup water

1 tbsp. sugar

Ground black pepper

Salt

1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

 

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the garlic, basil and tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add the water and sugar. Cook for 5 more minutes until the tomatoes are soft. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. 

This is a very simple sauce, and the ingredients can be varied. If a spicy sauce is desired, add red pepper flakes with the garlic and basil. Any type of pasta can be used, or any type of tomato. Some tomato varieties have thicker skins than others do. If the type you are using has a thick skin, peel it before adding to the skillet.

 

Basil Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients:

4 medium plum tomatoes or 8-10 cherry tomatoes

4 ounces finely shredded Italian blend cheese

1/4 cup fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

Salt

Ground black pepper

Optional: red pepper flakes

 

If using plum tomatoes, red or yellow, cut the tomato in half lengthwise. If using cherry tomatoes, cut the top off. In both cases, carefully remove the tomato pulp from each tomato with a small spoon. Don't remove too much- it should leave the "shell" of the tomato thick enough to hold the filling. Roll the basil leaves and mince with a sharp knife, so they can be mixed into the tomato pulp. Chop the pulp, add to a bowl. Add the cheese, garlic, and basil to the tomato, and season with the salt and pepper. For a spicy filling, add a little of the red pepper flakes.

Fill each tomato shell with the filling, placing cut side up on a baking sheet. You can also use a muffin tin and place each stuffed tomato in a muffin section, spraying first with cooking spray. Bake for about 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

If you have leftover filling, use it to spread on pieces of French or Italian bread which can be placed under a broiler or placed in the oven to melt the cheese.

Image: Wikimedia.org

 

About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.

 
 

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