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For the love of tomatoes

Published 9:28pm Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You know how you sometimes hear folks say you can never have too much of a good thing? Well, my bet is they’re talking about tomatoes.

At justapinch.com, no matter how many plants we have each year, the Kitchen Crew and I still manage to use every last tomato. Whether we serve ‘em up in the raw as an al fresco snack or put them up in cans for a taste of summer later in the year, we just cannot get enough of the red guys.

Kim Phillips-Randolph of Centralia, Ill., enjoys the bounty of her friends’ and neighbors’ gardens as much as she does her own.

“We have so many generous friends with gardens who send fresh vegetables our way this time of year,” said Kim, who recently earned big Blue Ribbon kudos for her Bacon Tomato Pie recipe. “I love tomatoes, and my husband loves bacon, so I concocted a bacon tomato pie. Served with a salad, it hits the spot on a warm summer day.”

Now that may just be the understatement of the century. Cheese, onion, mayo and basil pair up with delicious layers of fresh tomato and salty bacon for a deceptively easy dinner idea. In a rush? Use a pre-made pie shell; no one will ever know.

Home cook Sheri Mullins sweetens things up with her Watermelon Summer Salad, a tasty way to blend fresh ‘maters with other flavors of the season.

“This is a light, refreshing side dish for the heat of the summer,” Sheri said. “Our summers here in Texas routinely go over 100 degrees. My turn at [hosting] Bunco fell on a 102-degree day. The last thing I wanted was to heat my kitchen, so I came up with this dish by combining a few different recipes. It was a hit!!”

Feta, cucumber, watermelon and tomatoes get a toss with high quality red wine vinaigrette for an unlikely but delicious summer side. Sheri’s favorite pairing? Chicken salad croissants. Yum.

Of course, there’s really nothing more classically tomato-tastic than homemade salsa. Shawn Chant of Birmingham, Ala., is on board that tomato train with her fresh take on salsa fresca.

This fun recipe offers up a refreshing twist by incorporating kidney beans and fresh avocado right into the salsa itself. The result is a colorful relish perfect for parties or afternoon picnics. Prepare at least an hour ahead to let the flavors meld, then serve yourself … liberally. It’s like the whole of summertime right in your bowl.

So, feeling hungry yet? Goodness gracious, just the thought of biting into a perfectly ripe, juicy tomato has me smiling from ear to ear. What a blessing to know the joy of ample food and fresh flavor. What do you say we make the most of our harvest… and head into the kitchen? Happy cooking.

Watermelon Summer Salad

Watermelon Summer Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, sliced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, extra virgin
  • 3 cups watermelon, cut into small chunks
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into small chunks (same size as the watermelon)
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup red wine vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 pinch sea salt (large)
  • Black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup feta cheese (tomato and basil flavored)

 

Directions

1. Peel cucumber and slice in thin slices. Place in a bowl with tight fitting lid. Add vinegar and olive oil. Stir until combined. Add a couple dashes of pepper. Close lid and shake bowl to distribute mixture and pepper. Refrigerate overnight.

2. The next day — Cut watermelon and tomatoes into small chunks. Place in large bowl.

3. With slotted spoon, strain cucumber from vinegar mixture onto cutting board. Discard vinegar mixture.

4. Cut cucumber slices in half and add to watermelon bowl.

5. Sprinkle sea salt and sugar over watermelon mixture; mix until well combined.

6. Add dressing and a couple dashes of black pepper; stir until combined. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

7. Thirty minutes before serving, stir in feta cheese.

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