What I love most about this time of year at the CSA is the fresh, vine ripened tomatoes. I absolutely love the beautiful rainbow variety of heirloom and cherry tomatoes that we are seeing out of the farm right now.
When I first became a CSA member and started experiencing this kind of tomato variety for the first time, I was very rigid in my thinking of how to use them. Just the term “heirloom” scared me and I felt these special tomatoes could only be used for special purposes, like as an art display on a platter dressed simply with olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper. I’m over that now. I still think these tomatoes are special and I definitely use some special recipes for highlighting their beauty, but in general I now use the tomatoes like I do any other tomato….that is in thousands of different ways. Ditto with the cherry tomatoes.
So I thought that this week I would share with you both some ideas for using the tomato harvest and some recipes that are either some of my faves or that maximize the use of other items in the fields right now.
Tips for Using Cherry Tomatoes
This week we get to pick A LOT of cherry tomatoes. Now please, don’t under pick just because you don’t know what to do with them all. Here are some ideas for making use of a lot of cherry tomatoes.
- Freeze them. Cherry tomatoes freeze beautifully whole. Simply line a rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Place tomatoes in a colander and rinse well. Drain and gently pour tomatoes on prepared baking sheet. Take additional paper towels and place on top of the tomatoes, rolling and patting them gently to try and soak up any last remaining water droplets on the tomatoes. They should be as dry as possible before freezing. Remove any stems and discard any split tomatoes. Place dried tomatoes in a large re-sealable plastic baggie and close tightly, removing as much air from the bag as possible. Freeze until ready to use. Whole frozen tomatoes are great right from the freezer oven or pan roasted for pasta. You can also use them in soups and stews.
- Pickle them. Check out this cool recipe for quick pickling whole tomatoes (click here).
- Oven or pan roast them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once they have popped open and begun to release their juices, add garlic and cook for a bit longer. Toss with pasta, spiralized zucchini or cucumber, or add to pizzas or grain salads (see recipe below).
- Consider oven drying them into intense morsels that can be used like any other sundried tomato (click here). The dried tomatoes can be covered with oil and kept in the refrigerator or frozen for later use.
Cherry Tomato Recipes
Blistered Cherry Tomato Sauce
– 2 pounds mixed cherry tomatoes
-Light olive oil or other high heat oil (like avocado)
– 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– sea salt and pepper
– 2 tablespoons minced basil
Preheat oven to 450. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with light olive oil. Toss tomatoes and garlic with olive oil. Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. Bake, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until most tomatoes have blistered and popped open and there is plenty of juice accumulated in the pan. Transfer tomatoes and juice to a medium bowl. Mix in basil.
The following recipe is simple yet delicious. It was adapted from The Ultimate Cooking with 4 Ingredients Cookbook by Jean Coates.
Marinated Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad
– 1/3 cup white vinegar
– 2 tablespoons sugar, or stevia to taste
– 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
– 3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
– 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
– 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
– 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Combine vinegar, sugar, dill weed, and black pepper. Pour over cucumbers and stir gently. Refrigerate one hour. Stir again just prior to serving.
Gluten Free Chicken Parmesan with Buttered Cherry Tomatoes
– 2 large chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise then pounded very thin
– 3/4 cup almond flour
– 1/4 cup brown rice flour
– 2 large eggs
– 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
– 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
– 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 1 quart cherry tomatoes, rinsed and stemmed
- Lightly beat eggs in a bowl or container large enough to contain the chicken pieces. Place almond flour, brown rice flour, and Parmesan in another container and mix well. Season flour mixture well with salt and pepper. Melt ghee or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip chicken in egg and then allow excess to drip off before placing in four mixture. Coat chicken well in flour and shake of excess. Place in hot pan. Repeat with remaining chicken cutlets. Cook chicken about 6-8 minutes per side or until brown, crispy and cooked through. Remove to a plate.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in another skillet over medium high heat. Add cherry tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until cherry tomatoes begin to burst open and release their juices, about 10-15 minutes. Serve cutlets buttered cherry tomatoes.
While these may not be as plentiful at the farm as the cherry tomatoes, don’t hesitate to make use of the “seconds” available for free to CSA members. Cut out the small black spots or bruised areas and you have a tomato just as good as any other in the distribution. Here are some tips on using the heirloom tomatoes (first and seconds):
- Don’t worry about mixing types of tomatoes in your dishes. While you might end up with yellow, orangish or even a brownish result, the taste benefit of mixing heirloom tomatoes can’t be beat.
- Slow roast them into amazingly plump, delicious pieces that can be topped with olive oil and kept safely in the fridge for several months, or kept frozen for longer. My favorite method for oven drying tomatoes comes from Fine Cooking (click here); however I make a few changes to the recipe. I don’t heat the oven above 300 degrees because I find the tomatoes and garlic tend to burn otherwise. I also use a little less oil than the recipe suggests and add the garlic only during the last hour or so of baking. The oven dried tomatoes can be used on pizzas, in pastas, on sandwiches or burgers, on crostini, in salads, etc. and the oil (as well as tomatoes) make wonderful vinaigrettes.
- Make homemade marinara sauce. Check out this easy recipe (click here) that doesn’t require peeling tomatoes or using a food mill.
- Make soup. Cold soups like gazpacho or hot soups (see recipe below) can be a great way to use up lots of tomatoes.
Heirloom Tomato Recipes
Eggplant and Tomato Gratin Serves 6
– 1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/3″ pieces
– 4 ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced into 1/3″ slices
– 1/4 cup minced Kalamata olives
– 3 large cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tablespoons mixed minced fresh herbs, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil
– 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
– 3 tablespoons white wine
– 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
– 1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
– 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13-inch casserole dish (like a pyrex) with cooking spray. Lay alternating and overlapping slices of eggplant and tomato in three rows to completely cover bottom of dish. Slide tomato slices up so that the tops of the tomato almost covers the tops of the eggplant pieces (this is so the tomato slices will keep the eggplant moist through cooking). Sprinkle evenly with Kalamata olives, garlic, and herbs. Drizzle evenly with olive oil and wine. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake uncovered an additional 20-30 minutes to reduce liquids.
- In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley. Once liquid in casserole has been reduced, remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Return to oven and bake for a final 15-20 minutes, or until topping is golden.
- - 2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, cored and halved horizontally
- - 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- - 1 onion, sliced into three pieces
- - 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- - ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- - ½ teaspoon salt
- - 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour 2 tablespoons oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly across sheet. Place tomato halves, onions slices, and garlic in a single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes skins begin to brown and onions are tender. Remove from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, peel garlic cloves (or squeeze garlic out of skins) and place garlic in a blender. Add onions and tomatoes and any pan juices to the blender. Add smoked paprika, salt and sherry vinegar. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot.