Tomatoes are gems of the garden. There is nothing quite like a ripe and juicy tomato picked at the height of its growing season, mainly summer to fall. Did you raise a bumper crop of tomatoes this year? Are you sneaking out at night to leave grocery bags of ripe tomatoes on your neighbor’s doorsteps? Are you at least leaving a recipe card with them?

Although tomatoes offer loads of juicy health benefits, their biggest selling point is lycopene, a carotenoid associated with lower risk of both macular degeneration and several types of cancers, including prostate, cervical, skin, breast, and lung.

Tomatoes are best stored out of the refrigerator. Partially ripe tomatoes will ripen in a few days at room temperature. Once ripened, tomatoes will keep for up to two days without refrigeration. If you have too many to eat or give away, store them in the warmest part of your refrigerator. Then allow them to return to room temperature before eating for optimum flavor.

Gently wash tomatoes in cold water before eating. Slice them to eat plain or with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Stack them on a whole-grain sandwich or add a slice to a grilled cheese sandwich. Chop and toss tomatoes in fresh salads or add them to sauces, soups, or chilies. You can even throw them on the grill or under the broiler. There is no wrong way to eat a tomato!

Instead of pawning off your extra tomatoes on your friends and neighbors, why don’t you make some amazing new dishes?

Tomato Flowers

8 medium sized tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed or fresh corn off the cob
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before assembling tomatoes. Core tomatoes. Slice each tomato from top to bottom leaving about 1/4 – 1/2 inch uncut at the bottom. Turn and cut tomato two more times to create 8 even slices but leave slices attached at bottom. Sprinkle tomatoes lightly with salt and/or pepper. Place each tomato in a decorative colorful bowl and fan out the tomato for stuffing. Put one large spoonful of corn salsa inside each tomato. Tomato Flowers are also good with grilled shrimp on top for a light lunch.

Fried Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise

Fried Tomatoes

3 medium, firm red or green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 beaten eggs
2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Watkins Black Pepper

1. Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. As you cook the rest of the tomatoes, add olive oil as needed.

Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise
8 large fresh cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup real mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon each of Watkins Chili Powder, Watkins Paprika and Watkins Nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground Watkins Black Pepper, to taste

1. Place garlic, unpeeled, in a microwave dish and drizzle with olive oil.
2. Microwave unpeeled garlic cloves on high power 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until very soft; cool slightly. Squeeze garlic from skins into a small bowl. Using a fork mash the garlic until smooth.
3. Add mayonnaise, spices, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serve fried tomatoes with garlic mayonnaise.

Tomato and Olive Bread Salad

2 pounds large, ripe tomatoes (5 or 6, depending on size)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 sweet bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Watkins Granulated Black Pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 loaf dense white bread, cut into large cubes (6-8 cups of cubes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Over a large mixing bowl, core and chop the tomatoes, discarding the cores. Stir in the red onion, pepper, green olives, salt, black pepper, and garlic. Set aside to let the juices come out.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large baking pan, stir the bread cubes and the olive oil to lightly coat. Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until lightly browned.

Cool for 10 minutes, then toss the toasted bread with the tomato-olive mixture to coat. Stir in most of the basil, and mound the salad onto a serving platter or six individual salad plates. Scatter the remaining basil over the top. Serves six.

This is a great main-dish salad, and the bread can also be browned on a grill instead of baked, and then topped with grilled chicken or shrimp.

Tomatoes and Crab

24 cherry tomatoes or 12 small tomatoes
6 ounces crabmeat, (drain if canned)
2 green onions, diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Watkins Parsley
1/4 teaspoon Watkins Dill Weed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crushed Italian seasoned croutons

Slice tops of tomatoes. Scoop out insides. In medium bowl, combine crabmeat, onions, celery, mayonnaise, parsley, dill, salt and pepper. Fill each tomato. Chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle with crushed croutons just before serving

Tomato-Paprika Salad Dressing

Spice up the traditional tomato and mozzarella salad or vegetable salad with this dressing, or use it as a light sauce for fish, grilled chicken breast, or pork chops.

3/4 pound plum or other ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
1 small clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon Watkins Paprika
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Watkins Sea Salt and Watkins Black Pepper

With a paring knife, cut a shallow x in the bottom of the tomatoes. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel and discard their skin.

Cut tomatoes into quarters lengthwise. Using your fingers, discard seeds.

Transfer tomatoes to a blender. Add vinegar, sugar, garlic, and paprika and puree until smooth. Remove the center cap, and with the blender motor running, add oil in a steady stream, blending well. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

The tomatoes are “blanched” in a hot water bath to easily remove the skins, giving the dressing a smoother texture.

Tomatoes add color, flavor, and healthy ingredients to your recipes.

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