Sunday, August 3, 2003

Go over top with this year's tomato crop

Seasonal fare

By Angela Stephens
Gannett News Service

Once you've found the perfect tomato, summer eating becomes a wonderful thing.

One of the best ways to enjoy fresh tomatoes is sliced or tossed in a salad or on a sandwich, where the sweet, ripe flavor stands out. There's no rule, however, limiting the enjoyment to those ordinary ways of serving tomatoes.

The possibilities for showcasing a good tomato are deliciously infinite. And with that in mind, here are some tasty tomato ideas.

• The best tomatoes of the season are easily served in thick slices on a platter. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then top with a sprinkling of salt, freshly ground black pepper, chopped fresh basil and grated mozzarella or Parmesan cheese.

• Make a big batch of salsa - combine chopped tomatoes with minced garlic and jalapenos, chopped onion and fresh cilantro, salt and pepper and fresh squeezed lime juice. Get out a bag of tortilla chips and keep tasting it as you mix until the flavor suits you.

• Cut medium-size tomatoes - romas are best for this one - in half, brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a 450-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. Chop and toss with fresh, hot cooked pasta, minced garlic, fresh basil and thyme and Parmesan cheese for an easy, delicious dinner.

• Make a quick tomato-bread. Cut loaf in half lengthwise or arrange thick slices on a baking sheet. Lightly butter bread, sprinkle with garlic powder and place thick tomato slices on top. Sprinkle tomato with olive oil, dried thyme or basil (or both!) and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Pop it under the broiler for a few minutes until the bread starts to turn golden brown and tomatoes look a bit sizzly.

• Halved or quartered tomatoes can top eggplant or zucchini in a simple baked gratin dish that works as a main vegetarian course or side dish.

• The classic cold soup for warm weather: gazpacho. Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers all combine with water, salt, olive oil and a few fresh herbs in a food processor to whir up this zesty summer soup.

• Make a salad of chopped tomatoes and red onion, good-quality olives, olive oil and feta cheese. Toss and serve as a delicious side dish.

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