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In the Kitchen: Enjoying tomato season

One of the things I love most about summer are the tomatoes. 

Nothing you buy at the grocery store can compare to the taste of a vine-ripened, homegrown tomato.

I love that even when my tomato plants are no longer producing, there are still plenty of sources around town where I can find beautiful and tasty vine-ripened tomatoes. I love to chill them and eat them with a little sea salt sprinkled on top. 

They are also delicious in salads, tarts, sauces, and of course, as a tomato sandwich with mayonnaise. 

If your tomato garden is running over, here are some recipes to try.

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad with two main ingredients: rustic bread and fresh tomatoes. This is one of my favorites. Please use good quality bread and olive oil. You can also make this salad your own by adding in some capers, Kalamata olives or chopped roasted red peppers. 


2 ½ pounds tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces

2 teaspoons salt

3/4 pound rustic bread, cut into bite sized cubes

10 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Dijon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Shaved Parmesan (optional)

Place tomatoes in a colander and then put the colander in a bow. Sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons salt and toss. Allow to the tomatoes to drain for 20 minutes while you toast the bread. Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons olive oil and then place on rimmed baking sheet. 

Bake bread cubes in preheated 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until firm but not browned. Remove and cool. Remove colander with drained tomatoes. To tomato juice in bowl, add shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Whisk in ½ cup olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the bread cubes and tomatoes with the dressing. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Toss again and add shaved parmesan if using. 

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Caprese salad

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 pounds large tomatoes, sliced

7 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks

3/4 cup fresh basil, stacked, rolled up and then sliced

On a platter, arrange sliced tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter the mozzarella chunks and the basil and then drizzle the olive oil over all. 

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No-cook tomato sauce

1 ½ pounds tomatoes, cut in half along the equator, not through the core

1 clove garlic, finely minced

4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

1 pound spaghetti

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Gently squeeze out the seeds and excess juices from the tomato halves and discard. In a bowl, using your hands or a potato masher, smash the tomatoes completely. Add garlic, red wine vinegar, butter, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil and parmesan. Set aside. 

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water, according to package directions. Drain and then pour into tomato bowl, tossing well. Garnish with basil. 

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This tart would be delicious with brunch or served with a crisp salad. 

Tomato basil cheese tart

1 unbaked pie crust, store bought or homemade

1 ½ cups mozzarella, grated

4 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

1 cup fresh basil, cut into slivers, more for garnish

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

Salt and pepper

If using store bought pie crust, unroll onto a pie plate. Flute edges. Line with two layers of aluminum foil. Bake in a 450-degree oven for eight minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Place pie crust on a rack and sprinkle on ½ cup mozzarella cheese. 

Put tomato wedges on several layers of paper towels for a few minutes and then pat dry. Arrange tomatoes attractively on top of mozzarella in pie crust. In a small bowl, combine basil and garlic. Sprinkle over tomatoes. In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, Parmesan and remaining mozzarella. Spread cheese mixture on top of tomatoes. 

Bake in oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Garnish with more basil.