This is the time of year when friends, neighbors, relatives, and people you never met and maybe didn’t even want to meet come knocking on the door with extra zucchini and tomatoes they grew in their home garden and can’t eat fast enough. Some of them have sad tales of mutiny by family members. Some have a faint green tinge to their skin from eating so many squash.
It gets to the point where I’m afraid to answer the door. When I come home from errands, I always have to sneak up on my front porch for fear someone left me a “present.”
Retired firefighter Rob Ryder left a zucchini on my doorstep recently that I thought should audition for a movie: The Zucchini That Ate Asilomar. He said it had been lurking unnoticed under leaves of the squash plant and had grown to epic proportions. Afraid for the life of his cat, he attacked it with a machete, then roared over to my house and left it there while I was not at home. It was at least 30 inches long and as big around as a torpedo. When they get that big, there’s not a lot you can do besides hollow them out and stuff them with a hamburger and tomato stuffing, then bake them. The skins get tough and the seeds turn into shrapnel. That’s why you want to scrape it out hollow. Besides which they won’t fit in the oven, let alone the steamer basket.
Until he got tired of mowing the lawn and sold his home to move to smaller digs, my friend Wayne Dawson used to grow the best cherry tomatoes and beefsteaks I ever had. He’d give me a lug or two, and Marge Ann and I would eat them like peanuts. I’m trying to convince him to grow them in decorative baskets but in the meantime I’m stuck with store-bought. Thank goodness for the Farmer’s Market.
Back in the Old Fire Department, before bureaucracy and the effort to be PC took over, we always had a garden in back of the firehouse. We figured if the City expected us to mow the lawn and water the bushes, we might as well take the initiative to decide exactly what those bushes should be. I usually grew string beans, tomatoes, Swiss chard, zucchini and jalapenos. We often had our own surplus crops to deal with, even with all those firefighters to feed each shift, but there were always neighbors who left us presents on the doorstep in addition to what we grew ourselves.
I have thus become somewhat of an expert on what to do with extra tomatoes and zucchini, besides slice them up and pour salad dressing on them or hollow them out and fill them with chicken salad. (P.S.: that turkey salad they have at Grove Market is wonderful in a tomato.)
These recipes are a couple of ideas I’ve tried.
The flavor of these oven roasted tomatoes is concentrated, much like sun-dried tomatoes, due to the long cooking process. Make a large batch of these and if you have any left over, they’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic
4 – 6 ripe medium tomatoes
2 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 tsp dried oregano (more if fresh)
4 – 6 tsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 and a half to 2 hours, until the centers of the tomatoes are soft and the skin has begun to shrink. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature. Serves 4 to 6.
Tomatoes Stuffed with Corn
4 – 6 ripe tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) whole-kernel corn, drained
1 – 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Lime wedges for garnish
Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and seeds. Set aside. Combine the corn, celery, bell pepper, cilantro, and optional jalapeno pepper in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, chili powder, lime zest and juice, salt, and pepper. Combine the mayonnaise mixture with the corn mixture, stirring to thoroughly combine. Spoon the corn mixture into the tomato shells and serve chilled, garnished with lime wedges. Serves 4 to 6.
We’re so fortunate to live in the Salad Bowl of America. We have an endless supply of vegetables, but to everything there is a season so celebrate those endless tomatoes while you can.