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Tomato-picking at the local farmers market can be a family event

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Last weekend, my wife and I decided to go to the local farmers market and pick some tomatoes. I had never done this before, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

Once there, we grabbed some boxes and hopped on the hay wagon. There were five or six others onboard with us for the tomato-picking experience.

Off we went around the fields, passing one tomato “garden” (about 2-3 acres), around a corner and down to another tomato patch, filled with vine-ripened tomatoes as far as you could see. The tractor came to a stop and off we went with our boxes in hand.

My wife went right for the big, juicy red ones; I was in charge of gathering some yellow tomatoes and as many green tomatoes as I could carry. I hadn’t had any yellow tomatoes for a long time, so I picked quite a few. I probably picked too many green ones, but it was all so easy. They were right there to be plucked.

After a while, everyone in our group had picked all they wanted and it was time to return. We passed another wagon of tomato pickers on our way back, and we all waved to one another.

Once back at the main store, our boxes of tomatoes were weighed in. To my astonishment, we had “only” brought back 27 pounds of tomatoes. But at 40 cents a pound, it was less than $12. What a deal! If you haven’t ever had this experience, you’ve missed out on a great time.

What to do with all

those tomatoes?

Now, what am I going to do with all these tomatoes? Tomatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in your garden. But how many ways are there to use them? I can only take so many sliced tomatoes and tomato sandwiches. I could make lots of pasta sauce, can a few jars of tomatoes, or better yet, give them away to my friends.

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes however thick you like them (the thicker they are, the longer they cook). Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Coat the tomatoes with flour, then dip in a beaten egg, and then dredge in cornmeal for a final coat. Fill a skillet with enough oil to almost cover the tomatoes (about 3/4 of the way up). Get the oil nice and hot and then fry them up. Cook on each side until golden brown. Let cool before enjoying. Serve them as a side dish or have them with breakfast.

Optional: For an even better taste, try frying a few strips of bacon (the fattier, the better) in your pan until they are crispy. Remove the bacon and add enough oil to almost cover the tomatoes. Once done, serve the tomatoes with bacon bits on top.

Fried Red Tomatoes

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1-1/2 tsps. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 medium tomatoes, chilled and cut in 1/2-inch slices

Cornmeal, for dredging

Hot bacon drippings, for sautéing

Combine the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt, paprika and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Spread this mixture on both sides of the tomato slices. Dredge the tomato slices in the cornmeal.

Heat 1/4-inch bacon drippings in a skillet. When hot, saute the tomato slices until lightly browned and crisp. Drain and serve hot. Makes four servings.

Fried Green Tomato BLT

This is a great variation on the standard bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Use whatever toasted bread you like, slap on a whole lot of mayo along with some fresh lettuce leaves and three or four strips of crispy bacon. Now, instead of using the usual slices of fresh red tomatoes, substitute some fried green tomatoes. You’ll be in for a real treat.

Grilled Tomatoes with Basil Vinaigrette

These taste great with grilled chicken or fish.

3 yellow tomatoes

3 red tomatoes

3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsps. freshly chopped basil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut tomatoes in half and thread onto skewers, alternating colors. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning skewers often.

Remove tomatoes from skewers and place on a serving plate. Combine remaining olive oil, vinegar and basil and drizzle over kabobs. Makes 6 servings.

Linguine with Tomatoes and Gremolata

A mixture of chopped parsley, garlic and grated lemon rind, called gremolata, is sprinkled over the finished pasta.

1 box (12 oz.) linguine

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 large tomatoes, diced

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

1 yellow tomato, seeded and chopped

1 tsp. minced fresh garlic

2 Tbsps. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Gremolata:

4 Tbsps. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 tsps. grated lemon rind

1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic

For the gremolata, combine parsley, lemon rind and garlic in a small bowl; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot; drain. Return pasta to pot and set aside. Sauté 1 teaspoon garlic in hot oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for one minute or until lightly browned. Stir in diced tomatoes, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley. Pour tomato sauce over the hot cooked pasta, and toss to combine.

Top each pasta serving evenly with chopped yellow tomatoes and gremolata mixture. Drizzle each serving evenly with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.

‘Sun-dried’ Tomatoes

Use as many plum tomatoes as you want to dry, as they produce the best end result. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wash and slice the tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick. You don’t even have to peel them. Lay the slices out on the baking sheet, making sure not to touch sides. Place in the oven and wait. This can take anywhere from 6-10 hours. Baking them faster will ruin the consistency and the flavor. Periodically check the tomatoes; rotate positions, if necessary, to keep appearances uniform. When they have the consistency of fresh raisins, they’re done. If they are undercooked they will be too wet and sticky; if they are overcooked, they will be dark brown and dried out.

Bring the tomatoes to room temperature on the baking sheets. Transfer them to quart-size zip top bags and place in the refrigerator. They will last indefinitely.

Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.