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We always plant a ton of tomato seeds in March, and come June we have a hard time not using every last one of the promising seedlings that have emerged. The result is a jungle of tomato plants in our garden that grow on top of and around each other but somehow manage to produce buckets and buckets of beautiful fruit. We fill our harvest baskets and lay them out on the table and wonder if we’ll ever find enough time to use or process them all.
If you don’t have your own bumper crop, chances are a nearby farmer does – ask about buying tomatoes in bulk, or better yet take some of their “seconds” off their hands!
Easy Peasy Roasted Tomato Sauce – follow this simple process to make a batch of tomato sauce of whatever size (fill 1 roasting tray or 6!). The roasted flavor is retained when you can or freeze the sauce which makes it a little different from your typical simmered sauce (which is also delicious of course).
Chili – pick your favorite recipe – vegetarian or meat – and use fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Bonus points for ease and convenience when you make your chili in the crock pot. Nothing says fall like coming home to a warm bowl of dinner! You can always freeze chili in quart containers for future meals too, which multiples the benefit of this easy dinner.
Fresh salsa – there is seriously nothing better than chopping up a few fresh tomatoes (ideally of different colors and textures!) and mixing them with garlic, peppers, a little lime juice, and a pinch of salt. If you’re feeling adventurous, add in black beans, peaches, or corn. This also works well if you have a bucket full of tomatillos!
Tomato and Cucumber Salad – an ideal use for cherry tomatoes, this salad is what it says – just chop up your cucumbers into half-inch pieces and cut your cherry tomatoes in half. Mix with a simple vinaigrette and add some feta cheese and chopped basil. Great for put lucks!
Grilled Veggie sandwiches with Tomatoes and Mozzarella – at the height of the harvest season we are often swimming in eggplant and zucchini along with our tomatoes. We slice and grill the veggies ahead of time and put them in a balsamic basil marinade for a few hours, then make sandwiches layering the marinated veggies with huge slices of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese for lunch or dinner. Don’t forget to add fresh basil and garlic mayo! A simple sandwich with just cheddar cheese and tomato is also quite awesome on its own.
Ratatouille – please your kids by pairing a Friday night movie (Disney’s Ratatouille) with a dish of the same name! This dish is great because, although you might need to follow a simple recipe, it can basically be a one-dish process. It also uses all of the veggies that are ready at the same time, like eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash. I like the recipe in Serving up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman. You can even follow the Disney Family version to make Remy’s Ratatouille with poached eggs!
Skakshuka – this delicious Northern African dish sounds more complicated than it really is. Its simply a mouthwatering pan of tomatoes, garlic, and peppers, seasoned with cumin and paprika, over which you crack a few eggs and sprinkle some feta cheese (goat cheese is also good). One pan, just a few simple steps, and it uses a ton of tomatoes (i.e. use your own plum tomatoes instead of a can!). This is really impressive if you have out of town guests for breakfast, but is equally appropriate for a weeknight family diner.
Stuffed Heirloom Tomatoes – if you have big Brandywine or Beefsteak tomatoes, you can do a quick but impressive dinner (or side dish) by scooping out the inside seeds and filling the tomatoes with a blend of a grain (like quinoa or rice), veggies (like diced and sautéed onions, zucchini, or peppers), and grated parmesan. Topic with seasoned bread crumbs and mozzarella and bake for 10-15 minutes at 375. If you’re looking for a recipe, I’ve liked the one in the Vermont Farm to Table Cookbook by Tracey Medeirous (from a farm in Fairlee, VT).
Caprese Salad – simply slice tomatoes, top with a basil leaf and a slab of mozzarella then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Finger food salad! If you have a ton of cherry tomatoes its fun to make kababs with mozzarella balls and basil, and you can add a drizzle of high quality balsamic vinegar too.
Tomato Soup – you can find all sorts of variations on tomato soup; making it fresh from your own tomatoes is so much better than the canned stuff, and easy too! We like to mix tomatoes with carrots and onions to give it a little bit of sweetness. We make it up as we go, but we end up with something similar to this recipe on Epicurious. Double the batch and freeze some for later (always good with grilled cheese).
What’s your favorite way to use a bounty of fresh tomatoes??