We’ve reached that time of year when the spring/summer gardens are playing out. But back in May, my mouth was watering for fresh, red, ripe, delicious, homegrown tomatoes. We had looked forward all year to the treasure of homegrown tomatoes and when it came time to plant, it was impossible to set out just a few plants. After a year of less flavorful store-bought tomatoes, that first tomato sandwich is like your mouth just went to Heaven!
I prefer the Classic; whole wheat bread, mayo, black pepper and a slab of fresh tomato. For variety, try the classic with mustard. Tasty, different but not recommended for purists. Or how about the Mediterranean? A fresh pita bread heated in a hot skillet, spread with mayo and parmesan cheese, coarse ground black pepper with diced cucumber and tomatoes. Fold it like a taco and you are close to Paradise. Believe it or not with a glass of milk, this makes a very good breakfast. Then there’s the toasted tomato sandwich, the grilled cheese with thinly sliced tomatoes. Try adding fresh basil to any of the above. Just don’t settle for the BLT rut.
Tomatoes go well in many recipes but when you have an abundance you find yourself putting them in places you normally wouldn’t. Chopped tomatoes in pinto beans, scrambled eggs with sliced tomatoes, diced tomatoes in tuna salad. We started asking for an extra plate and knife in restaurants to slice our ripe homegrown while diners beside us looked on with envy. Fortunately, there is no law against bringing in your own tomatoes.
Did you know that eating tomatoes can lower your heart disease risk? Some studies say by as much as 26%. In February 2017, a meta-analysis (a large survey of many studies) reported that eating tomatoes and tomato products have positive effects on blood lipids, blood pressure and blood vessel function. Researchers attribute this health benefit to the antioxidant lycopene which is what gives the deep red color to tomatoes.
As the summer continued, I was bringing in bags of tomatoes. We were eating tomatoes three times a day and still all of my kitchen counter space was covered! Babette the poodle even got tired of tomatoes. Part of every day was grading, culling and processing tomatoes. Boiling, slicing, blending, chopping, freezing…
After a month of tomato sandwiches, one begins to search for recipes that use a lot of tomatoes. I have a recipe for Filetto Sauce which is a light Marinara made by cooking down onions, garlic, poblano peppers, oregano, basil and ten whole ripe tomatoes. It is absolutely superb on any light pasta (We like linguini) and sprinkled with fresh grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano.
Fresh salsa, tomato pie, guacamole, penne salad tossed with tomatoes and olive oil… And then I developed a recipe for Gazpacho. When Kathy and I were in Madrid a few years back, we were served an appetizer - a bowl of cool, fresh pureed tomato, flavored with cucumber, onion, garlic and spices. This traditional Spanish dish is typically served with fresh crusty bread and olive oil. Here in East Texas, we are not accustomed to enjoying a cold soup. In fact, the very expression “cold soup” does not sound appetizing to our ears. But if you have never had Gazpacho, you simply must try this dish. During the hot days of August, a bowl of Gazpacho is a perfect appetizer or it stands alone with good bread, wine and friends. And the attached Gazpacho recipe uses 10 cups of tomatoes!
The season is over, the freezer is full and as we have all heard, “There are just two things that money can’t buy, True Love and homegrown tomatoes.”