We’ve given up on tomatoes.
Before I am hit with a hurricane of angry emails filled with nasty, not-very-Midwestern comments, let me clarify.
We’ve given up on growing tomatoes. And, to be honest, that makes me very sad.
For decades, the other Michael and I were tomato farmers. Our garden was loaded with tomato plant after tomato plant.
Typically, we stuck to standard varieties — Roma was a favorite, as was San Marzano. On occasion we’d be seduced by some of the more exotic (and heirloom) varieties.
Over the years we planted everything from green zebra to Cherokee purple to Black Krim. It was a veritable rainbow of vegetables — er, I mean, fruit — we would tend like our own children.
We staked them to give them support as they grew. We squealed with delight when we saw the first blossom.
That squeal turned to shouts of joy when those blossoms began to swell into actual tomatoes. At that point, we started to envision quart after quart of tomato sauce and fresh BLT sandwiches.
And then, like children, our tomatoes turned on us.
At some point during the summer — usually around mid-July — our sweet babies turned into angry teenagers. The quick spikes in growth were replaced by wilting leaves and blossom end rot. It was as though each plant was saying to my face, “I will hate you for as long as I live!” Our hopes for a tomato-filled future were dashed.
The heartache simply grew too much, and so a few years back, the other Michael declared that we were done.
No more would tomatoes break our hearts. Valuable garden space that had once nurtured the so-called “love apples” was now relegated to flowers.
But the love of tomatoes is not so easily buried beneath a layer of mulch and black-eyed Susans. Thankfully, the vendors at the Farmer’s Market are more than willing to help us out. Far better tomato farmers than we produce row after row of beautiful fruit, each one prettier than the last.
The bottom line is that you can have your BLT and eat it too. All you need is the imagination to find things to do with the tomatoes that others have grown.
And that’s where I come in. Below, you will find recipes that fit all of your tomato needs.
From simple dishes to (slightly) more complicated jams, I can help you out. Give them a try, and, in so doing, heal your broken heart knowing that that tomato loves you, no matter what it may say in the heat of the moment.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Pasta (or anything, really)
This recipe from the New York Times is a revelation.
I must admit that I was skeptical when I was throwing it together. There were simply too few ingredients and too few steps for it to actually produce anything I might like.
I was wrong. Roasting the cherry tomatoes heightens their sweetness, meaning you don’t need a lot of fancy ingredients to make this dish taste great.
That said, I can imagine slicing a ring sausage to go with those tomatoes might be divine and make for a heartier meal. Until then, I will have to go with this simple dish just as it is.
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
⅓ cup olive oil, plus 2-3 tablespoons for tossing
¼ cup pecorino Romano cheese or Parmesan
¼ cup bread crumbs
½ pound pasta (note: check out other suggestions for these tomatoes at the end of this recipe)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine the halved cherry tomatoes with ⅓ cup olive oil. Stir to coat. Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. Combine wit the grated cheese and bread crumbs, and stir to combine.
Scrape the tomatoes onto your prepared pan — try to keep the cut sides up — in a single layer, and bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to package directions. When cooked to al dente, drain the pasta and stir together with your roasted tomatoes. Stir in the remaining olive oil and season with additional cheese if desired.
Serves 2-4 people
If you have a couple of great heirloom tomatoes, this recipe is perfect for you. Nor does it get much easier. This salad is literally just a slice of fresh tomato, a slice of fresh mozzarella, a few basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. That’s it. What makes it even better is that it is one of the most beautiful salads you will ever prepare in your life. That makes it the perfect first course for your next summer dinner party.
Note: You can also serve this over toasted bread if you want to make it a bit heartier.
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick disks
2 large tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick (here is a great place to vary the color using a red and a yellow tomato)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Coarse salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a circular pattern, alternate slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella on a serving plate. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle the basil leaves over the top and serve.
For a variation, you might also try drizzling a little Balsamic vinegar over the salad before serving.
Fire Roasted Tomato-Chipotle Salsa
This recipe is from “The Great Salsa Book” by Mark Miller. It’s a nice salsa, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The chipotles packed in adobo sauce give it a wonderfully smoky heat that I look for in a dip. But what makes this different from countless other salsa I’ve tried is the red wine vinegar. It gives the salsa a slightly sour taste that complements the sweetness of the tomatoes beautifully.
The flavor is intensified by roasting the tomatoes in the broiler before adding them to the other ingredients. Roasting tomatoes is easy, but be sure to watch them carefully so that they don’t overcook.
Note: You can use any variety of tomato for this recipe. However, Roma’s or San Marzano’s work best because they contain less moisture, making for a less-watery salsa. However, use whatever tomato you have a lot of.
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ an onion, peeled and chopped
2 pounds Roma tomatoes, with the stems removed, seeded and cut in half vertically
3-4 cloves garlic
4 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
First, roast the tomatoes and the garlic. Preheat the broiler. While the broiler is heating up, spread out the prepared Roma tomatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the unpeeled garlic cloves. Drizzle with two tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast until the tomato skins begin to blacken (about 10 minutes). Remove from the broiler and, when cool enough to touch, remove the skins. The tomato skins should pull off easily. To peel the garlic, simply squeeze the cloves at the base until the skin splits and can be removed easily. Set aside.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the cooked onion, half the roasted tomatoes and all the garlic in the food processor and pulse until chopped (Do not overprocess. Chunks of tomato and onion should still be visible). Add the cilantro and chipotles and pulse to mix.
Chop the remaining tomatoes and fold into the salsa with the vinegar, salt and sugar.
Serve with tortilla chips.
Note: The salsa can be eaten immediately, but it will taste better a few hours (and even better a few days) after you finish making it. This gives the flavors time to marry.
This article originally appeared on Iowa City Press-Citizen: Put those tomatoes to use in these recipes for pasta, salad and salsa