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Recipes for the summer tomato season

By Lisa Tindell

If you had asked me five years ago to eat tomato pie, I probably would have laughed in your face. However, since it’s 2020, the year of all things odd, I thought I’d share the glory of this wonderfully, odd-sounding pie.

Yes, it is savory. No, it is not sweet – even though the word “pie” usually conjures up ideas that include strawberries, lemons and apples surrounded by fluffy mounds of sugary fillings and creamy cinnamon.

Since tomatoes are in full swing for the season, I thought I’d share some recipes that you might find a little different that could be added to your dinner table.

But, keep in mind, that even though a dish made with tomatoes is just bound to be good, nothing beats a good old tomato sandwich. I know I’ve gotten away from the main idea of this story, but I couldn’t address tomato season without mentioning the best, undisputed way to eat a tomato and that is this: fresh, and I mean very fresh, white bread slathered with your favorite brand of mayonnaise (I’m still testing the differences of Hellman’s, Kraft and Dukes – there isn’t a clear winner just yet), thickly sliced tomatoes (peel them or not, your choice) and just a dash of salt. There are variations to this sandwich where some people add a sprinkle of black pepper, but I’m not on that team. Some people even add a slice of some kind of cheese. Not my team either. And, just so you know, it’s always a better sandwich if the tomato juice runs down your arms. Just trust me on that one.

Now, back to the original idea of creating a side dish or even a main course using the ruby summer fruits we call tomatoes.

I have come across a few recipes for different tomato dishes that will help you use up your harvest in a hurry. It seems that tomatoes ripen in stages with the ability to harvest a few red, ripe tomatoes every day. At least on our few plants, we are able to harvest around 4 or 5 each day. I now have a bowl in my refrigerator holding about eight or so tomatoes and they are ready to be used in some way. I plan to fry up a little bacon, break out the lettuce and slice up a few tomatoes to give my family a great lunch this week.

Besides the tomato pie that I mentioned earlier, I’ve found a fool-proof and delicious recipe for some great salsa. You can make salsa in small batches to be consumed immediately, but if you have a few buckets filled with tomatoes, you can actually make the salsa and process it in canning jars to enjoy in the coming months.

I remember, as a child, I would help my mother can tomatoes that would be used in soups and chili throughout the winter. It was a hard, hot job back then, but it was so worth it when you’d see those shelves lined with jar after jar of wonderful tomatoes that you had grown (or at least harvested) yourself.

With so many road-side farms, local farmers selling to the public and farms who allow customers to come pick their own, there is really no reason not to buy fresh, southern-grown tomatoes.

I hope that you enjoy the recipes I’m sharing this week. And, if you’re not into cooking your tomatoes, let me know which mayonnaise you think is best on that sandwich.

 

Tomato Pie

4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced

6 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

10 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green onion

1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell

2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Layer tomatoes in a single layer in the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle with have the basil, half the onion and half of the bacon crumbles. Add another layer of tomatoes and repeat the addition of basil, onion and bacon. Season with ground pepper and salt if needed. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

A few notes on this recipe: If you don’t like onion, just leave it out. You can also replace the fresh basil with dried basil using one teaspoon per layer. If you like other cheese you may substitute according to your liking. I have had this one with a mixture of mozzarella and cheddar and I really prefer the cheddar only version.

Fresh Salsa

3 cups chopped tomatoes

½ cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup onion, diced

¼ cup minced fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno pepper (including seeds)

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Allow to chill for about 2 hours to allow the flavor to develop. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve chilled.

 

Note: This recipe can be doubled or tripled depending on your ingredient availability. The original recipe yields about 5 cups of salsa. If you triple the recipe, you should get about seven or eight pints. To process the salsa, be sure to preheat your jars in a water bath to make sure they are shocked to the point of breaking when the salsa is placed in the jar. Fill the jar just to within one-half inch from the rim. Wipe the rims clean so the lid can make good contact. Remove all of the air bubbles by running a butter knife around the inside of the jar. Apply the ring over the lid and tighten just finger tight. Place the jars in a canner and cover by one or two inches with water. Bring the water to a boil over a medium-high heat and let boil for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the canner for an additional five mintues. Remove the jars to the counter top and allow them to cool for 24 to 48 hours. Retighten any loosened rings and store in a cool, dry place.

 

Roasting Tomatoes

(These can be served as a side dish or used in recipes such as salsa.)

Wash and halve the tomatoes Toss with fresh or dried herbs of your choice. Best selections include basil, oregano, garlic, chives, red onions, etc. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish or on a baking tray. Place in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees. Depending on the firmness you prefer, check the tomatoes after 15 minutes. Continue roasting until tomatoes have reach your preferred level of softness.