Sunday, September 2, 2012

Feasting On Tomatoes!

Growing up on the farm, we always had a large garden. When the seed catalogues came in the dead of winter, my parents carefully selected the varieties of each type of produce to ensure the hardiest and most flavourful results. In the spring they would carefully plant the seeds and nurture their growth throughout the growing season. Mom and dad spent countless hours tending to the plants to ensure that they would have a bountiful harvest of produce to help feed the family.

The tomato plants were treated with even more love and care. Dad would start the seeds in small containers and place them under grow lights he set up in the house so that the plants would be strong and healthy by the time it was safe to transfer the plants to the outdoor garden in late May or early June.

Of course, Mother Nature could throw some nasty weather (frost, wind, hail, draught, etc) at the gardens at any time, so the harvest would vary every year - but if we were lucky - there would be more tomatoes than we knew what to do with!

There is NOTHING like the taste of a locally grown, fresh, vine ripened tomato! Store bought tomatoes just don't cut it!

Granted, tomatoes on the vine can be rather tasty and are a suitable alternative in the off season if the price isn't too high. Personally, I won't pay more than $1.50/lb at any time of year for tomatoes on the vine! But, given the option - I'll take a locally grown vine ripened tomato ANY DAY!!

There are countless ways to enjoy tomatoes!

My mom and I used to make at least a couple pots of tomato sauce and bottle it to use for pasta dishes or pizzas. She would can or freeze tomatoes to use for any number of dishes in the winter. If there were enough extra, she also made tomato soup.

Most of all though, we ate the tomatoes fresh! As a side with a main course, in salads and sandwiches - we practically inhaled the luscious red fruit!

I miss those days! I miss being able to walk out to the garden and eat a tomato fresh off the vine!

Luckily for me, I have some wonderful friends who will supply me with a few of the beauties if they can.

When my gal pal and I headed out on our road trip in early August, she brought along a couple of local tomatoes to have with our picnic lunch. One, we cut up and ate as is - with a hint of salt and pepper added. SO GOOD!

The other one, she sent home with me to enjoy. It was a rather large one - one of those that a single slice will pretty much cover the whole slice of bread. It was so big that I was able to make 4 sandwiches with it over the next few days! To keep it fresh, I placed it cut side down in a Rubbermaid container, covered it with the lid and stored it in the fridge. I took it out about an hour or so before I made each sandwich to allow it to adjust to room temp before slicing and eating!

A week or so after that, another good friend gave me a few tomatoes from her garden! Oh my! My taste-buds were heading to Nirvana!

So how do I like my tomato sandwiches? Several ways actually!

The first one of the season is always the basic one. Two slices of fresh whole wheat bread, a bit of Miracle Whip Light on each slice, some fresh ground pepper, a light sprinkle of salt and a thick slice of tomato! A feast for the taste-buds! Toasted bread also works for this, but somehow the fresh bread just makes this even more divine!

After that, I mix it up a bit.

Make the same as above but add some chopped green onion and a bit of lettuce (leaf is preferable). I also like adding a slice of medium cheddar for one of the variations. Toasting the bread first is up to you!

Without question, you have to have the classic BLT - toasted of course! I tend to buy turkey bacon more than the regular bacon, but if you find a really meaty package of bacon then go for it! I just don't like losing at least half of each strip to fat drippings with the traditional stuff!  I've also been known to jazz up a BLT with some chopped green onion and a slice of cheddar cheese!

You gotta have a grilled cheese and tomato! This is one of the few things that I prefer using Cheez Whiz rather than sliced cheddar as it melts and browns better under the broiler. You can also add a bit of chopped green onion to this one to kick it up a bit!

Okay, this next one may seem a bit strange and may even gross out some of you but I SWEAR this is delicious! Toasted peanut butter and tomato! Someone my mom knew, introduced her to this combo back in the 70's! We were all a bit hesitant to try it but we started with just a small piece of tomato on a corner of a slice of toast with peanut butter. Try that first. If you like it - and most people do - then add tomato to the rest of the slice!

If I still have fresh tomatoes to enjoy after indulging in at least a couple of each of the above sandwiches, then I make Bruschetta. This summer, I even started making my own French Bread (I use 50% all purpose flour/50% whole wheat) with the wonderfully versatile recipe from the gals at Mennonite Girls Can Cook


2 medium tomatoes
3 small cloves garlic
2 green onions
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped)
fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste
8 slices French bread
extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

Finely chop the tomatoes - if they are overly juicy, remove about 1-2 Tablespoons of the juice. Finely chop two of the garlic cloves, add to the tomatoes. Chop the green onions and add to tomatoes. Add the oregano, cilantro, basil, a dash of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Brush the bread with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and toast. Rub the remaining garlic clove on the olive oil side of the toasted bread. Top each slice with tomato mixture (about 1 Tablespoon on each) then sprinkle the Mozzarella on top. Place under preheated broiler and allow the cheese to melt and just start to brown. Serve warm. Makes 2 servings as a lunch or 4 servings as a side to a meal.



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