All About Tomatoes
Featured Recipe: Polenta Gratin With Tomatoes, Corn, and Basil
Featured Recipe: Oven-dried (or oven-roasted) cherry or plum tomatoes
More Ideas for Tomatoes
Ideas for Green Tomatoes


All About Tomatoes

Pick tomatoes that are firm and uniformly colored. DO NOT STORE THEM IN THE FRIDGE. Tomatoes quickly lose flavor if stored in the fridge. Store tomatoes at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and with the stem scar facing down (the UC Davis link about freezing tomatoes, below, suggests the stem scar should be faced up, but apparently tomatoes rot more quickly that way). Tomatoes may taste even better the next day, but they are best eaten within a few days and will start to shrivel within seven days or so. I haven't figured out a good way to store half-eaten tomatoes, so I make sure we never have any. However, apparently tomatoes stored in the refrigerator can regain some flavor by being placed on the counter for an hour, a few hours, or a day or so.  And, Food52 offers suggestions for storing cut tomatoes other than in your stomach.
 
Tomatoes picked unripe can be ripened in a paper bag in a cool, dark place. Here are some more detailed instructions. Some may take longer to ripen, and green tomatoes are also edible and delicious. We provide some ideas for using them below, such as frying, pickling, or adding to curries.
 
Ripe tomatoes can be frozen, canned, or oven-dried. Here and also here are some good instructions for freezing tomatoes raw or stewed. They can also be cooked into sauces, soups, or stews and frozen. If I'm making tomato sauce I always triple the recipe and freeze some. Here are instructions for oven-drying, also provided below.
 

- Jackie Starr

Featured Recipes: Tomatoes

Oven-Dried Tomatoes Every summer, I eagerly anticipate the tomato, harvest in part to make gratins based on recipes from the Greens restaurant. The various components can be made a few days ahead, allowing for a beautiful and delicious meal for guests with minimal prepping around dinnertime: just assemble before guests arrive, and bake while enjoying hors d'oeuvres. Gratin is really just a fancy name for casserole, but made with peak-of-the-harvest vegetables this won't feel mundane. I like to serve the gratin with deeply colored vegetables — green beans, sauteed greens, a kale salad, roasted eggplant—and the gratin can also be served with meat, chicken, fish, or shellfish. Here is another similar gratin made with artichokes, tomatoes, and olives. Both recipes are from the Fields of Greens cookbook.
 
For a vegan-friendly dinner, skip the cheese or use a cashew cream, and use a butter substitute in the polenta and gratin.
 
Following the gratin recipe are instructions for oven-drying cherry tomatoes. These are easy to make and a wonderful item to have in your freezer or preserved in olive oil for the winter.
 

Polenta Gratin With Tomatoes, Corn, and Basil

Ingredients
polenta (see recipe below
fresh tomato sauce (see recipe below)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter 
3 ears of corn, shaved (about 2.5 cups kernels) 
salt 
3/4 pound tomatoes, cored and seeded 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
pepper 
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 
1 or 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and thinly sliced 
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated, about 3/4 cup
 
How to make it

  • Make the polenta, and while it's cooling, make the sauce; remove the bay leaf just before assembling the gratin.
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the corn. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the corn is tender; season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • While the corn is cooking, cut the tomatoes into large pieces — you should have about 1-1/2 cups.
  • Marinate the tomatoes in the olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few pinches of fresh-ground pepper.
  • Cool the corn and toss with the tomatoes, half the bail, and half the chilies.
  • Add salt, pepper, and chilies to taste.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Pour the sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish, overlapping the triangles slightly; use all of the polenta.
  • Spoon the vegetables right into the spaces between the polenta triangles, separating the rows as you go.
  • Sprinkle with the cheese.
  • Cover and bake for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 more minutes, until the gratin is bubbly.
  • Sprinkle on the remaining basil and serve.

Serves four to six.

Tip: Taste the corn. If it's tough, add a little water to the skilled; cover and steam until the kernels are plump. If it lacks flavor, add a few pinches of sugar before steaming to sweeten it.
 
Polenta
(This can be made a day ahead, probably two)
6  cups water
1 1/2  teaspoon salt
1 1/2  cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)
1/4  teaspoon pepper
Cayenne pepper (optional)
2  tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2  cup grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 1/2 ounces) (or provolone, cheddar or smoked cheese)

Lightly oil a 9-by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.  Bring the water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan.  Add the salt, then vigorously whisk in the cornmeal.  Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the grains have opened up and the polenta is smooth. (Jackie notes: I have seen tricks for making polenta without stirring. I find the microwave method produces polenta that is much less fluffy than with stirring. Cook's Illustrated suggests a pinch of baking soda, which worked for texture but affected the taste.)
 
Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the pepper, cayenne to taste, the butter, and the cheese.  Pour the hot polenta into the baking dish and set aside to cool.  For polenta gratin, cut it into 12 squares, then cut each square into two triangles.
 
Makes 24 polenta triangles; serves 6.
 
Tomato Sauce
(Can be made up to a few days ahead)
1 tablespoon light olive oil
½ medium-size yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup dry red wine
2 cups fresh tomatoes or 1 16-oz can tomatoes w/juice, chopped
1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan; add the onion, basil, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper.  Sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft, about 7 to 8 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer a minute or two to reduce; when the pan is almost dry, add the tomatoes and the bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf before assembling the dish.
 
Makes about 2 cups.
 

Oven-dried (or oven-roasted) cherry or plum tomatoes

(from Smitten Kitchen)
 
Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)
 
Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.
 
Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.
 
Either use them right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.
 
Once cool these can also be popped into the freezer in an airtight container.
 
Here are instructions for packing them in oil.

Jackie Starr is a LexFarm founding member who has been a flexitarian home cook for 25 years. Her recipe selections and adaptations are informed by experiences living abroad, by having spent many years in the Bay Area and Seattle, and by a delight in local, seasonal bounty.


More Ideas for Tomatoes

Soup
While the weather is still warm, make gazpacho. 

And, on cooler days, make hot tomato soup to go with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Entrees

Tomato Sauce
There are so many variations on tomato sauces.  They freeze well too, to remind you of summer in the colder seasons.

Tarts
Tomatoes are natural stars in all manner of tarts.  Between us, we have so many favorites!

Salads

 Sandwiches

Sides

 Miscellaneous

For even more ideas, check out these from Huffington Post or this tomato roundup from The Kitchn.
 

- Compiled by Jackie Starr and Betsy Pollack

Ideas for Green Tomatoes

At the end of the summer, you might have some green tomatoes to enjoy. 

Fresh

Preserved

Here are even more ideas from Southern Living and NPR.  The Kitchn offers three different green tomato roundups: one, two, and three.  And, here's an e-book with over 40 pages of green tomato recipes!
 

- Compiled by Jackie Starr and Betsy Pollack