The weather has been really unusual lately, uncharacteristically cool and full of rain.
However, the by-product has been a Rutherford County Farmers Market overflowing with so much produce that even I can’t keep pace with it despite my daily attempts.
And, oh, haven’t the tomatoes been glorious lately? I love tomatoes.
Like every other Middle Tennessean I know, I wait from the end of September until the first of July for those jewels of summer.
Nothing else fills our taste buds like just-picked tomatoes.
While I love to cook, one doesn’t need to cook much to enjoy all the goodies that tomatoes have to offer.
There is cucumber, tomato and onion salad, tomatoes filled with chicken salad or tuna salad and gazpacho.
Then there are wedges of lettuce topped with tiny chunks of peeled tomatoes that, despite its simplicity, can serve as a whole meal.
When my daughter Anne was home recently, she and her sister Beth begged for tomatoes vinaigrette, one of our staples. There was hardly enough left for dinner after we refrigerated them because somebody snuck one or two from time to time.
Even though I was unusually busy last week, I realized that I should capitalize on this summer’s bounty and make more of those bread and butter pickles that are so labor intensive.
This has been a banner year for crops.
Who knows what next year will bring? So, I bought loads of cucumbers, peppers and onions at the market and hunkered down for the task.
I started at 2:30 p.m. By dinnertime, I had 14 pints – all of which sealed immediately. Sweet success!
There are some other favorite summer dishes I haven’t made yet and realized it’s now or never, so on the menu for the next few days are: tomato pie, cherry tomatoes sautéed with olive oil, garlic and basil served over angel hair pasta (with some mozzarella and parmesan), and scooped out tomato halves filled with tomato pulp, breadcrumbs, parmesan and Italian herbs.
Tomato pie is so easy to make because doesn’t require a recipe.
I spread a layer of crescent rolls or pie crust on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan, top that with about 1/4-inch of mozzarella cheese, put a thick layer of drained, peeled and thinly sliced tomatoes on top of that before topping the pie with some fresh basil cut in thin slivers.
I then cover all that with a layer of mayonnaise, sprinkle more cheese on top, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.
Tomatoes are quite easy to peel if you drop them in a saucepan covered by boiling water for about 10 seconds. When you cut an “X” in the bottom, the skins come right off. Test one tomato. If doesn’t work off, leave them in the water another for another few seconds.
I think I’ve shared this before, but it’s such a hit that I’m going to share it again.
Here – from a 1974 newspaper clipping – is my “famous” recipe:
6 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
4 large, fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
3 tablespoons parsley, finely minced
2 fresh cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vinegar (any kind)
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
Put a sliced layer of tomatoes in a container, which I prefer to be least 10 inches in diameter, and sprinkle with about half of the basil, parsley and some salt and pepper. Repeat. Mix remaining ingredients very well and pour over the tomatoes. Marinate 4 hours or more before serving.
If you want to take this up a notch you can put the tomatoes after they have marinated on a platter lined with fresh spinach leaves and top them with Kalamata olives, capers, fresh mozzarella and red onion rings.
Your dinner guests will love you and will ask for it time and again.
And you can tell them Mrs. Murfreesboro told you about them!
‘Til next week.