Features and Occasionals, Shall We Dance

Nightshade Season

By Staff

Ah, the lovely tomato—so beautiful in its simplicity, elegance, versatility and nutrition. This is the garden prize we wait all summer for—whether we meticulously planted, fertilized and trained our plants on cages and twine, or we carefully select each fruit from our favorite growers at the farmers market. That first vine-ripe black krim or cuor di bue (shaped like a perfect ox heart!) sprinkled with a touch of sea salt, well…it’s just heaven.

Of course, we quickly turn to more interesting ways of consuming these beauties. Slice a fat yellow and orange variegated pineapple Hawaiian, place it atop a slice of creamy buffalo mozzarella with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil, and, whether or not we’ve ever actually been there, we’re transported at once to the heart of the Italian countryside. That’s how powerful this handsome nightshade is.

My children love to wander the garden rows, popping sweet little yellow blondkofpchen cherry tomatoes into their mouths as fast as they can be picked. We frequently catch the dogs doing the same (how do they know to pick the ripe ones, those pesky excellent smellers!).

While it’s difficult to imagine tiring of the tomato, naturally there are many other vegetables finally in season, either to pair with the tomato or enjoy on its own. Eggplant is now readily available and pairs beautifully with tomatoes and zucchini in a baked ratatouille. Dozens of varieties of peppers are plentiful, prompting us to grab some cilantro and a red onion and toss together a batch of fresh salsa. Be careful with those jalapenos and serranos; their heat can vary wildly, even with peppers from the same plant. To garner more flavor than heat: Wearing gloves, remove all of the seeds and connective white membrane where the capsaicin is concentrated.

Lastly, Utah’s perfect peaches now abound, as do our world-famous Green River melons, so don’t forget to finish off those tomato sandwiches with a slice of Utah’s best fruits. We’re lucky to live in a place with such abundance. So please, dig in while the season is at its best!

What’s local now

Green Peppers
New potatoes
Summer squash / zucchini

Preparing summer produce

Fresh Tomato Bloody Mary
3 pounds ripe juicy heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt or smoked salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce of your choice
3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated horseradish or bottled prepared horseradish, to taste (about a teaspoon)
A handful of flat-leaf parsley
A dash of pickle juice (trust me) or juice from green olives or capers
8 ounces chilled vodka, divided
Lemon wedges, stuffed green olives, pickled carrots or dilly beans, and celery stalks for garnish.

Wash, core and coarsely chop tomatoes. Remove the seeds if desired. In a good blender, purée tomatoes with the next seven ingredients (this is key). Divide vodka among four glasses with plenty of ice. Add the tomato puree and finish with a bit more salt, a dash of freshly ground pepper, and garnishes of your choice. Add hot sauce and horseradish to taste.

Baked Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes
8 large heirloom tomatoes
1 cup cooked quinoa or brown rice
4 cups fresh spinach
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup grated or shredded Romano or parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare quinoa as per directed on package. Set aside, but keep warm. Slice about an inch or so off the top of each tomato and scoop the seeds and some pulp out. Add any extra pulp to the quinoa. Place tomatoes in a glass or ceramic baking dish. In a skillet, sauté onion over medium heat until translucent (about 5 to 10 minutes). Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes more until the garlic smell wafts out of your window, taunting your neighbors. Add the spinach mixture to your quinoa, and then add in about ½ cup of cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir ingredients together well. In a separate bowl, mix bread crumbs with remaining cheese.

Fill each tomato with the quinoa mixture then top with the bread crumb and cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then switch the oven to broil on high. Keep your eyes on this, it happens fast! Broil for a few minutes to get a crunchy brown layer. Serve with a salad and a baguette for a healthy and light summer meal.

This article was originally published on August 1, 2015.