When I first began writing this series about cooking from your pantry — way back in March, when we were all so blithely optimistic about this pandemic thing — I never really imagined that I’d still be crashing around in my kitchen come September, trying out recipes featuring pickle juice, old carrots and instant farina (but not all together, ick). I promised myself that, no matter what, I wouldn’t do a hackneyed end-of-summer article about what to do with extra tomatoes.
And yet, as with so many other brain-bending truths that 2020 has laid bare, here we are.
Fact: I have more tomatoes in my garden than strands of my natural brown hair. (It’s all varying shades of Pandemic Gray, with a few white hairs thrown in for emphasis.)
Fact: I also have too many cucumbers.
Fact: Same with onions.
What’s a poor green thumb to do? It would be a crime for all that delicious fresh produce to go uneaten. Fortunately, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s eating things. If you also have tomatoes, and if you are also good at eating things, then this article is for you. I give you … Things to Do with Extra Tomatoes, 2020 Edition.
1. Cut them into slices, salt generously and eat. Mmmm.
2. Cut them into slices, salt generously and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Also mmmm.
3. Cut them into chunks, along with some cucumbers and/or onions, salt generously and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.
4. Add feta cheese. Good, right?
5. Slice tomatoes into evenly thick slices. Sprinkle with salt. Top each tomato slice with a slice of fresh mozzarella then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and shredded fresh basil. Eat a plateful.
6. Get one of those polenta logs (find them in the Italian foods section of your grocery store) and cut it into 1/2 -inch slices, then top each slice of polenta with a slice of tomato. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for half an hour or until the tomatoes are bubbly and the Parmesan starts to brown.
7. Take that giant zucchini that your neighbor gave you (or use your own home-grown giant zucchini), cut it into quarter-inch slices, and arrange them on an oiled baking tray. Top each slice with a slice of salted tomato, then top each tomato with a slice of mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese bubbles and browns.
8. Chop two or three tomatoes into a bowl. Add three cloves of minced garlic, or one clove per tomato. Salt liberally and drizzle with olive oil, then stir well. Serve atop toasted baguette slices.
9. Cut a bunch of tomatoes in half and line them up in a glass baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with plenty of salt, then top with a generous coating of Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until Parmesan browns.
10. Slice some tomatoes. Slice some crusty French bread then toast it. (If you’re ambitious, rub each slice of bread with a cut garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and toast it in a skillet or on a griddle. If you’re a regular person, use a toaster.) Make a sandwich with the toasted bread using just tomatoes and a thick slice of feta or fresh mozzarella. Don’t forget to drool with anticipation.
11. Dice five or six large tomatoes and saute them in a medium-high skillet with olive oil, lots of salt, and two or three minced garlic cloves. Pour the tomato sauce over warm pasta. Dust generously with Parmesan and fresh basil. Pop open a bottle of wine. Impress what would be your guests at the dinner party you would be having now if not for the pandemic.
12. Make gazpacho, which is a chilled tomato soup popular in Spain. I absolutely love the stuff. I’ve never made it so I can’t tell you how it’s done, but you can look up a recipe and make a big batch and leave some on my doorstep.
13. No, really. Please make me some gazpacho.
14. OK, fine. Here’s a recipe for gazpacho adapted from www.thekitchn.com: Cut up 2 pounds of ripe tomatoes and mix them with two thick slices of slightly stale French bread, crust removed and torn into chunks. While the bread is soaking up the tomato juice (about 20 minutes), cut the following vegetables into chunks: a peeled and seeded cucumber, a bell pepper, one or two shallots or half a small red onion and two cloves of garlic. Put everything in a blender or food processor with two tablespoons of red wine or balsamic vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil. Blend until smooth, then chill for two hours and serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a couple slices of crusty white bread.
15. I made gazpacho myself, and it’s delicious! You wait there and I’ll bring some to you.