Land of Leftovers

One of the season's most treasured moments is taking that first bite of a sun-ripened tomato fresh from your garden. Of course, before too long, you might wonder just when your garden will stop blessing you with the ripe fruit! Of course, there are always ways to preserve your tomatoes for future use (I'd suggest you take a look at Preserve Your Garden for a few ideas on that topic), it seems a shame to not take advantage of the freshness factor.

One of the best ways to take advantage of fresh tomatoes is to avoid a lot of tampering with them. Either fresh from the garden or just slightly warmed, they maintain so much of their sun-ripened flavor. If you stew them for hours, some of that delightful flavor becomes tempered. That's why I love adding them fresh to my favorite salads and sliced over a great sandwich. That's where they really shine this time of the year. And, while having some of that bounty saved for later on in the year will send smiles around your table year round, there's something truly wonderful about being able to offer your loved ones a taste of nature's treasure -- only moments after being harvested.

Therefore, this month, I'm sharing some of my favorite ways to take advantage of fresh tomatoes. Not -- of course -- counting nibbling on them right in the garden!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you about your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

Ronda's Fast Salsa

This simple salsa can be made even faster if you combine the coarsely chopped veggies in a salsa maker and process by turning the handle about a dozen times.
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • hot pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 T. lime juice

Chop the tomatoes, onion and peppers. Combine with the remaining ingredients and allow to set for 5 minutes before serving with tortilla chips.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Italian Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a fast and convenient way to use fresh tomatoes. This one takes advantage of many of the season's best produce.
  • 8 oz. uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 large ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 c. sliced green onions
  • 1/4 c. shredded fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. coarsely shredded parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Once cooked, rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain.

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, vinegar and Italian seasoning in a screw-top jar. Shake well to combine; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, tomato, bell pepper, green onions and basil. Toss with the dressing, cheese and desired seasonings. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches

In an effort to use some of my garden tomatoes, I once added some thick slices of tomato to my grilled cheese sandwich. The effect was truly yummy!
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 2 tsp. grainy mustard (I like to use a Bavarian mustard)
  • 2-3 slices cheese (I've found that my favorite mild cheese is farmer's cheese and my favorite sharp cheese is sharp cheddar cheese)
  • 2-3 slices ripe tomato, cut about 1/4" thick
  • cooking spray

Spread the mustard evenly over the slices of bread. Layer the cheese and tomatoes over one slice of bread and top with the other.

Using a griddle or large skillet coated with cooking spray, grill the sandwich until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted -- about 10 minutes -- turning once. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 1 serving
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Stuffed Salad Tomatoes

This light salad can be made a few days ahead and packed into the tomato shells just before serving.
  • 1/3 c. orzo
  • 1 c. frozen corn, thawed
  • 1/2 c. diced Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 c. sliced green onions
  • 4 T. apple juice
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • dash hot pepper sauce
  • 2 large tomatoes

Cook orzo according to the package directions. Once cooked, rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain.

In a large bowl, combine the orzo, corn, cheese, onions, apple juice, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper sauce. Trim the bottoms of the tomatoes so that they stand upright. Cut off the tops and remove the cores. Dice the tomato trimmings and add them to the corn salad. Scoop out the tomato pulp and discard or save for a sauce. Invert the tomatoes onto a plate and let them drain for a few minutes.

To serve, fill the hollow of each tomato with about 1/2 cup of the salad mixture. Place each tomato in the center of a serving plate and ring with about 1 cup of the remaining salad. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes