Is it possible to have too many home-grown tomatoes? If you asked me in December, I would say NO. But in July, my answer is YES. We get big bags of ripe tomatoes all through the summer from our gardener friend Kenny, who doesn’t cook but can’t resist planting them every year.
Nothing tastes better than a tomato picked ripe from a vine, but how many a day can you eat? I’ve already confessed to making blueberry jam, but I don’t think I want to start canning tomatoes. I’ve thought about oven-drying some, but plum tomatoes are best for that procedure. The ones on my counter are big and round. Better to use them in dishes where you can appreciate their flavor.
If the tomatoes are ripe and still firm, try Salade Nicoise. With such key ingredients as green beans, tuna, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs, this French salad is hearty enough to be a main course.
Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce is another option. Hot cooked noodles are added to chopped fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and goat cheese.
If you have access to fresh mozzarella, make Caprese Salad, which is basically slices of fresh tomatoes layered with slices of mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Packaged mozzarella will do in a pinch.
If the tomatoes are getting soft, Gazpacho, a cold tomato soup, is the perfect choice. It’s easy if you have a blender.
Gazpacho – serves 4-6 (adapted from "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!")
2 pounds ripe tomatoes1 large cucumber1/4 cup olive oil3 tablespoons red wine vinegar1 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon garlic powder1/4 teaspoon black pepper6-8 drops hot pepper sauceCold water, if needed1 scallion, cleaned and thinly sliced
Remove and discard the tomato cores and skins. Here are 2 ways to loosen the skins: microwave or pot of boiling water. Cut 1/2 of 1 tomato into 1/4-inch pieces and set aside. You will add this to soup bowls just before serving. Put the rest if the tomatoes into the blender pitcher.
Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out and discard the seeds. Cut it into pieces and add to the pitcher.
Add the olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and hot pepper sauce to the pitcher. Blend briefly. Stop before the resulting liquid is totally smooth.
Refrigerate the soup in the pitcher or transfer it to a large bowl. Refrigerate until needed. The liquid will thicken as it sits. If it thickens too much, add some cold water, 1/4 cup at a time, and stir until it is the consistency that you like.
Ladle the gazpacho into soup bowls and add some chopped tomatoes and scallions. Serve immediately.For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"