Spatula Diaries: 5 fast and easy uses for summer tomatoes

Photo by Maggie Heyn Richardson

Like many of you, I’m deep in tomatoes. About the time I picked up a haul from the Red Stick Farmers Market last week, a family member plied me with an overrun from his garden.

The big ol’ bounty is a blessing and a curse. At no other time during the year will tomatoes taste this authentic. But the pressure to enjoy each and every precious one is killing me.

Naturally, we’re using them in requisite BLTs, cucumber and tomato salads and tomato sandwiches on shamelessly squishy white bread. I love them diced over morning eggs, and nowadays, a simple plate of sliced tomatoes accompanies our dinners the way a green salad usually does.

But what else can you do with fresh, juicy summer tomatoes? Plenty. Here are a few ideas.

Fresh salsa. Tacos are at the top of the food trend these days, and fresh salsa is an easy way to make them shine. Combine fresh chopped tomatoes and tiny dices of onion, garlic and jalapeño. Add fresh lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper and fresh chopped cilantro.

Raw tomato pasta. Heat a quarter cup of olive oil over medium heat and toss in a couple tablespoons fresh minced garlic. Let the garlic mellow in the oil for a minute or two, then turn off heat. Stir in 4 cups fresh chopped tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked angel hair pasta. Add a tablespoon of butter to the mixture for extra richness if you like. Toss with fresh basil.

Multi-purpose pasta sauce (freezable!). This is perfect for tomatoes that are extra ripe. Using a tomato knife (or any serrated knife), cut an “X” at the end of each tomato opposite the stem-end. Drop into boiling water for five minutes. Remove and cool. Starting at the X, peel off tomato skins and remove stem. At this point, you can freeze the tomatoes and their juice for later use. Or, for a versatile pasta or pizza sauce, puree them and cook them down with fresh minced garlic, dried oregano and salt and pepper.

Shingled on fresh fish. Chef Peter Sclafani of Ruffino’s Restaurant has a terrific formula for planked fish topped with pesto and fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes are sliced and “shingled” on the top of the fish, which ensures the fish stays moist as it’s cooking over charcoal. This works beautifully with redfish, salmon, grouper and flounder.

Stuffed. Tomatoes are the perfect device for serving something else, whether it’s creamy chicken salad or something hot, like spinach Madeline. One of my favorite stuffed tomato recipes combines sautéed julienned yellow squash and zucchini with cream and Gruyere. The squash mixture is stuffed inside a hollowed out tomato then baked for 20 minutes at 350 with bread crumbs on top.

What’s your favorite use for summer tomatoes? Email me, and I’ll share your tomato ideas in my next post.

Maggie Heyn Richardson is a regular 225 contributor and is author of Hungry for Louisiana, An Omnivore’s Journey. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Instagram @hungryforlouisiana and on Twitter @mhrwriter.

 

 

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