Tomatoes: Flavors of Summer

I am an unashamed lover of all things tomato. Well, except for tomato juice. That's just plain nasty.

But give me a vine ripe -- preferably home-grown beauty -- a salt shaker, and I have a meal that's perfect for any time of the day or night.

I typically plant three or four tomato plants each spring. I'd grow more, but my husband is allergic to them. Good! More for me. But honestly, the past two seasons have been dismal when it comes to my tomato harvest. Dismal is a generous term. It was downright pathetic. I successfully grew a whopping three, count 'em three, Purple Cherokees (my favorite) and five black cherry tomatoes.

I'm blaming an abnormally cool April that immediately went into a sweltering May with little rain and it stayed like that all summer long. Even with ample irrigation, my crop was pitiful.

According to Wikepedia, the tomato originated in western South America. While many people think it's a vegetable, genetically, it's a fruit. Tomatoes are the edible, often red, berry of the nightshade Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. There are more than 3,000 varieties of heirloom or heritage tomatoes in active cultivation worldwide and more than 15,000 known varieties.

Fruit. Vegetable. Whatever you call it, they're downright delicious.

If you had a bumper crop, send some my way.


Tomato cucumber salad:

This simple salad could not be any easier to prepare. Dice up your favorite cherry tomatoes, add cucumbers (something we did grow in abundance this year), add cubed feta and your favorite herbs (fresh thyme and oregano, all home grown) and toss with Italian dressing (Good Seasons seen here) and salt and pepper to taste.

  Tomato cucumber salad

Tomato cucumber salad

Slow-roasted Beefsteak Tomatoes

The secret to roasting tomatoes....low and slow. These beauties were roasted on a sheet pan in a 200-degree oven for about two hours. I don't really set a time. I usually eyeball them to tell when they're done. Cut beefsteak, or any large meaty variety, into wedges and arrange on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, your favorite herbs (thyme and oregano), drizzle with olive oil (go light) and a balsamic glaze. Once they're done, add more herbs.

The recipe possibilities for these are endless. After I pulled them from the over, I ate 10 standing over the pan.

 Slow roasted tomatoes

Slow roasted tomatoes

Caprese

The only thing simpler than the tomato cucumber salad seen above is caprese: a salad of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I sliced up red beefsteaks and yellow tomatoes and added fresh mozzarella, drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. Garnish with fresh basil.

The red tomatoes came courtesy of my brother-in-law who has a badass garden and grows hundreds of pounds of vegetables a year. The yellow variety compliments of my mother-in-law. The basil came from my garden. I also made four jars of pesto this year, but that's a blog post for next year.

 Caprese

Caprese

Bruschetta

Some of the best bruschetta I've ever consumed was in Italy. Ever since then, I've been on a quest to find good bruschetta here in the states.

Bruschetta originates as an antipasto (starter dish) from consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt.

I took mine a step further and topped by adding herbed ricotta, roasted cherry tomatoes and topped with fresh herbs, olive oil, balsamic glaze and S&P (salt and pepper). I started with a good crusty, ciabatta. I sliced it on the diagonal and brushed with olive oil. After a few minutes of stove-top searing, I spread a nice thick layer of herbed ricotta followed with the roasted tomatoes and garnish as desired.

This is perfect starter for your next dinner party or even a light dinner all for yourself.

 Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

I broke my own rule on roasting for this dish. Instead of roasting low and slow, I opted for high and fast. I cranked the oven up to 500-degrees.

Using my $2.00 flea market, cast iron skillet, I added a variety of cherry tomatoes, peeled, whole clove garlic, fresh herbs and a generous amount olive oil. After only 10 minutes, I finished them under the broiler on high for a few extra minutes. The high heat causes the tomatoes to burst, releasing their juices and making it's own sauce.

 Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes

Once the tomatoes were done, I added a few more fresh herbs and served them atop thin spaghetti topped with shaved Parmesan and S&P to taste. You could also use angel hair if preferred.

 Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

 Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Blistered Cherry Tomatoes with Thin Spaghetti

Whatever tomatoes are leftover will keep in the fridge for a solid two weeks. If they last that long.