Janet's Notebook
Savoring the Goodness of Homegrown Tomatoes


Caprese Pizza Showcases Seasonal Flavor


Growing up, my friend's grandfather always told us girls that to enjoy a fresh tomato all we needed was a sharp knife and a pinch of salt. Indeed, there were tomatoes served at every one of their meals during those hot, sticky summers. And as he would slice in to the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, juice would flow like a roiling creek. It was a wonder to my youthful, wide eyes. As a frequent dinner pest - er, I mean dinner guest - I was always first in line to sample his latest garden finds.

This certainly is the time of year to celebrate that bounty. Tomatoes are in their peak around the country, each one ripe for the tasting. While just a pinch of salt does do wonders, there are also some terrific tomato recipes out there that really get my taste-buds tingling.

Capreses are about the best thing to happen to the tomato since the invention of salt. Simply meaning a combination of basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, capreses come in many shapes and sizes: sandwiches, flatbreads, pasta, salads. Nikki Smith of Hemet, CA thinks that caprese pizza is the way to go. She uses fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, freshly chopped basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil to embellish a refrigerated pizza crust. The simplicity of the preparation is matched only by the simplicity of the flavors. Happily, they come together to form one delicious, crowd-pleasing treat.

Stuffed tomatoes are also a great way to make use of excess produce. Cherry tomatoes transform into darling, bite-size appetizers at the hand of Texas cook Jeanne Benavidez. She uses a mixture of cream cheese, onion, garlic and avocado to fill her party-ready Avocado-Stuffed Tomatoes. "A friend brought this to a back yard party once and I really liked it," says Jeanne. "She was kind enough to give me the easy recipe. I have made it several times and everyone seems to really enjoy the little morsels of coolness."

Equally cool, figuratively speaking, is Judy Sprague's recipe for full-size Stuffed Tomatoes. This fellow Kentuckian bowled me over with her bacon, broccoli and onion stuffed 'maters. Topped with panko breadcrumbs and salty Parmesan cheese, it's easy get creative with this one and add in other veggies of your choosing. (Extra zucchini, perhaps?) "I love the taste of this!" says Judy of her super summery dish. "It is a very easy side dish to make a meal special!"

Now, rather then cooking up his leftover tomatoes, Greg Honeycutt of Birmingham, AL chooses to preserve them in an especially unique way. "I dehydrate extra ones," he says. "I slice them as thin as I can, put them on a Silpat in a low oven and leave them be. 200 degrees for several hours usually does the trick. I then crush them to powder with mortar and pestle. Great for a tasty, colorful garnish, or to add a bit of flavor to anything you wish." Imagine how good those freshly dehydrated tomatoes will taste come soup-making season!

And Greg's not the only one preserving summer freshness for colder days ahead. Linda Scharek of Wildwood, FL described her favorite preservation method during a recent conversation in the Cooking Tips and Hints Discussion Group. "You can freeze tomatoes," she says. "Cut in quarters and put in a Ziplock bag. When you need tomatoes for sauce, just take them out of the freezer, skin will come right off, and use for whatever."

These great cooking ideas are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to celebrating the dear, humble tomato. Enjoy them simply sliced and sprinkled with a pinch of salt, baked atop an olive oil coated pizza crust, or stuffed with the freshest of herbs and veggies from your garden. No matter the how, simply enjoy. These warm days of bounty are meant to be savored.



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84 Comments
Judith1
Judith Fuselier-Phillips - Aug 25, 2011
Love this site!My husband and I have been growing, tomatoes,onions, peppers and jalepeno peppers, for awhile now, along with many other veggies.I grew up with always having a family garden.8 yrs. ago we came up with our own Picante sauce recipe.Family and friends beg us for jars.I love growing everthing, but the tomatoes are so darn good. I even make a tom. sanwich for breakfast sometimes.
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 24, 2011
Angela, I'm by no means an encyclopedia, just into everything so I've had some experiece at alot of different things. Ive been to alot of places that were honor system. Must have been a shock to you though, being from the city. We go into Iowa where we have friends that own a giant farmers market & tehy have a farmer grow their corn. We got some of the best corn you ever tasted. Here is how I put mine up! PEGGI'S FROZEN SWEET CORN
Angelina777
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 24, 2011
Hi again Peggi, thank you for your patience and for the link on finding Canning Corners and how to join!! Like you say, we just have to ask!! You are so knowledgeable in all aspects of baking, your mom trained you right!! You are a walking-talking baking encyclopedia, and a great help to us all. This is kind of corny, but In our famly, we are too citified, we were raised in San Francisco, then San Mateo, CA - my husband was raised on a farm in Connecticut, we travel there yearly and buy all kinds of corn from all the farmers, they just put their corn on a table, and it's honor payments! Then we all go back to the house and have a family corn feast gorging!! The first time I was amazed, so many huge pots of boiling water everywhere, that was all for dinner on the table? But after tasting all the corn, I understood!! We never had that good a corn here!! It has been improving a bit - Bob knows all about corn, and he would inspect it and hardly buy any of it unless he could see a likeness of CT corn.
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 24, 2011
Angela, yes most of us on here love helping those newbies that can't navigate, so to speak. Like the old saying goes, "If you don't know.....ASK."
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 24, 2011
Angela, here is a link that will take you directly to CANNING CORNERS. When you get there, click on the box on left side of page taht says JOIN.
justapinch.com/...canning-corner
To getto groups, normally you would go to top of any page where it says TOWN SQUARE, click it, then browse the groups to join. Since there aer hundreds of them, it is quicker to do it this way. Also, you could type the name of the group in the search box on any page if you know the name already & then when it takes you to a page that has choices of what you want, just click on the GROUP discussion.
Angelina777
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 23, 2011
Peggi, thank you for asking if we entered the canning corners, if not, how to do that? Sorry, still learning, all still new to me. You are all real busy ladies; canning, freezing, etc. etc., I'm just starting, but love this site with everyone so willing to help each other out, such LOVE!! Thank you all!!
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 23, 2011
Are you talking tomatoes Esther? I was talking the stove is a big one, but our toamtoes are only Celebrities & they are so meaty but yet juicy, not pasty like romas. I just canned 23 quarts of juice this am from tomatoes.Will post sometime today!
hadassah45
Esther Hardman - Aug 23, 2011
Peggi,
We have Black Krim, Paul Robeson, Pink Brandywyne and a delicious new one we are trying, Japanese Trifele Black and it is spectacular!
The biggest heirloom around here are the Belgium Giant and the gorgeous Pineapple. They can get as big as my head!
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 23, 2011
LOL Angela!

Debby, you don't pressure cook any tomatoes. They only need to be hot bathed. And, NEVER can corn!!! I used to but it is nasty! You have to cook it so long, it is dry. Here is how I have done mine for several years now. It is great this way & so much easier! PEGGI'S FROZEN SWEET CORN

Esther, can't remember what ours is called but it is a big one.

Angela, Have you joined the group Canning Corners? Or any of you!!
Angelina777
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 22, 2011
Thanks Sharon, Peggi & Diane for the good advice on using jars and lids, when canning etc. - making notes so I don't forget!
Angelina777
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 22, 2011
Peggy, I'm sorry, I meant my friend "freezes" her tomatoes in clean empty milk cartons! (not cans them). Sorry!! lol
hadassah45
Esther Hardman - Aug 22, 2011
Peggi,
No, it is a flat one, the "Ranger" I use our Dutch oven table and the propane tank.
Debby1
Debby Pounds - Aug 22, 2011
I can my tomatoes, too. They are much better to me than freezing them. It is really easy to can tomatoes. Jars, canner, salt, and skinned tomatoes. If you have a pressure cooker with a gage in it it is better. Or you can water bath them. We can everything we can. Peggi if you have a way of canning Corn on the cob please let me know. the recipe I have only calls for an inch of water in the jars and the corn looks so dryed out. But when you cook in it is pretty good. JUst thought you might have a new one. thanks
Angelina777
Angela A Hurtado-Greenwood - Aug 22, 2011
Peggi, a little milk ok, but only if I was canning tomato soup!LOL!!
cookiequeen
Peggi Anne Tebben - Aug 21, 2011
Ester is it one of those on tall legs? We have one that hooks up to a 100# propane cylinders. I use to can on it up in our building!

Oh,Angela! Thought you were putting them in milk! LOL!!