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One girl. One (long) weekend. 20 pounds of tomatoes.

September 3, 2008

A word of advice to all you readers who one day dream of having a vegetable garden: 12 cherry tomato plants for 2 people is overkill. It kind of pains me to say that, because I L-O-V-E tomatoes and I am loathe to admit that I may have been a bit too greedy in thinking of how much I could realistically eat in the span of a few weeks.
(And, to all you readers who are shaking your head in amazement at how I could possibly have made such a gross overestimation in planting that many plants, well…what can I say? It was the dead of winter when we planned our garden. We started more tomato plants from seed than we thought we’d need because, well, they wouldn’t all make it, right? Wrong. And now here we are, in a state of tomato overload.)
So: do you remember how I told you about the pile of tomatoes we harvested before going camping? We did indeed bring those tomatoes with us, and they were enjoyed by all and provided some nice fresh vegetables during the week. However — going away at the end of August, when the tomatoes are ripening all at once, is kind of poor planning! We came back and picked another 20 pounds. I kid you not.

I don’t mean to sound disappointed or sad or annoyed — actually, I’m kind of proud of all these tomatoes. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t think I’d get as many as I did, so it kind of thrills me to see those pictures above! When B and I lived in Boston, we had such a tiny yard that just a few tomato plants seemed to crowd the space…now with our 20×50 community garden plot here in Ithaca, I think we kind of let loose and went wild with planting as much as we could in the space, and still didn’t fill it up!

Even with sharing some of the haul with friends and eating ourselves silly with plain, raw, unadulterated tomatoes, we’ve still had a big pile sitting on the kitchen table that I’ve been working through over the past few days. I’ve been cooking and cooking and trying to decide what recipe to post…you’re probably overloaded with tomato recipes right now, so I felt I should post something unique! a standout!! like-nothing-you’ve-ever-seen-before!!!

And then the pressure just got to me.

And, I realized, maybe you – like me – would just be happy to get some ideas, a little inspiration. So in the spirit of tomato inspiration, I’ll just show you in photos of a few of the things that I did with our haul. And I *do* actually have a recipe for you, for a delicious sandwich we had this past weekend.

One of the first things I did with all the cherry tomatoes was to slow-roast them as Deb of Smitten Kitchen described. I now have two jars in the fridge of these lovely, sweet, utterly addictive treats, covered in olive oil.

On Labor Day, we had a light dinner of crostini with herb-garlic Boursin cheese, these slow roasted tomatoes, and local green grapes.

Mmmmmmm, this looks so good to me…my stomach just growled audibly.

As delicious as these slow-roasted tomatoes were, they don’t completely dry out, so they’re not good long-term keepers. For that purpose, I used a method for oven-dried tomatoes in From the Cook’s Garden. I grew a variety of tomato called Principe Borghese (similar to a roma) that’s supposed to be great for drying, so I gave it a shot. The method in the recipe requires endurance: halved tomatoes are seeded, then baked in a 175 degree F oven for 8-16 hours. Mine took about 14 hours to dry out enough to store. Yowza.

We had a simple side dish of halved cherry tomatoes tossed with some fresh oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Delicious and colorful.

I also made a roasted cherry tomato sauce and froze it to toss with pasta sometime during the winter.

One of our favorite late-summer salads made an appearance, as well: grilled steak salad with green beans, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese, olives and arugula. We don’t eat beef all that often, but this salad is one of our favorite ways to have it in the summer.

We had some green beans from our garden and arugula from our share…I wish I could say I grew the Kalamata olives in my backyard, but Ithaca’s definitely not an olive-friendly climate. The salad is dressed with a simple balsamic vinaigrette and topped with slices of medium-rare steak; I adore the bold flavors!

And one more use for those slow-roasted tomatoes: this sandwich.

I grilled some slices of eggplant (from our share), layered those with fresh basil from our garden, a few slices of creamy burrata cheese (fresh mozzarella with a creamy interior), and some of the slow-roasted tomatoes tucked into the top.

I set the assembled sandwiches onto my grill pan, and firmly pressed down with my spatula to get some pressed-sandwich action going…

…the result was a crusty, gooey, sweet, fresh taste of August.

What have *you* been doing with tomatoes lately? (I really *do* want to know; I still have more tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table!)

Besides just eating them juicy and raw, here are a few more tomato recipes I’d like to try:

Kristin’s ricotta-stuffed roma tomatoes
Mark Bittman’s tomato jam
Heidi’s Heirloom Tomato Tart in a Parmesan Crust


Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Tomato, Burrata and Basil Panini

View printable recipe

1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
a small handful of fresh basil leaves
half a ball of burrata cheese, sliced
a small handful of slow-roasted tomatoes, or oil-packed sundried tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes
4 slices of multigrain bread

Preheat a grill pan (or grill) and lightly brush each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil, then sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill the eggplant slices on each side until they’re golden and tender. Set aside.

Lightly brush one side of each of the 4 slices of bread with some olive oil, then lay them olive-oil side down on a work surface. On two of the slices, layer the ingredients as follows: basil leaves, burrata slices, eggplant, then the tomatoes. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Top each with the remaining slices of bread, olive oil side up (you want the sides of the bread that are brushed with oil to face outward so they can contact the grill surface.) You’ll now have two assembled sandwiches, ready to grill.

Transfer each sandwich carefully to a grill pan. Use a spatula to firmly press down on each, so you get some of the grill markings and so the ingredients smoosh together as the cheese melts.

When the first side is golden, carefully flip over and press down again with your spatula. When the second side is golden, remove to your work surface and cut each sandwich in half; serve when warm.

Makes 2 sandwiches.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2008 9:23 am

    Wow! Congratulations on a successful tomato harvest! I must get a garden next year for sure – I am totally jealous! All of the recipes and pics are lovely – as always!

  2. September 3, 2008 10:18 am

    Such a beautiful celebration of tomatoes!! And your panini looks so delicious. I finally just tried burrata for the first time a few weeks ago – great stuff! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lee permalink
    September 3, 2008 1:32 pm

    I planted too many tomatoes too! Mark Bittman’s tomato jam recipe came just in time and it is a big winner.

  4. September 3, 2008 2:58 pm

    You have just given me major motivation to learn how to garden and plant cherry tomatoes. Wow!

  5. Betsy permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:49 pm

    Wow, it sounds like your house is bursting at the seams with tomatoes, but what a great problem to have! I’ve made some tomato sauce with extra ones from our share, and even got away with not peeling the tomatoes by blending the sauce once cooked. These recipes look great – yum!

  6. flyingtomato permalink
    September 3, 2008 3:55 pm

    I’ve been drying some of my halved, seeded cherry tomatoes in a dehydrator. I’ve been roasting tomatoes with other summer veggies and freezing them for winter pizzas or sauces.

    And I’ve been going to a lot of beginning-of-semester potluck parties and bringing tomato salads to those!


  7. Lynne permalink
    September 3, 2008 6:23 pm

    Lovely, inspirational photos! I am going to try each of the recipes with our tomato harvest! I love your blog, showcasing local, seasonal, organic food. I look forward to your posts!

  8. September 3, 2008 6:46 pm

    Oh, my gosh! I’ve never seen so many tomatoes! How cool though, you grew all those yourself, you must be so proud! I slow-roasted some tomatoes just today, Romas, they are so good, in just about anything. But I had to buy mine at the market, so, yeah, I’m kinda jealous of your bounty. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Maggie permalink
    September 3, 2008 7:53 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of tomatoes! They’re beautiful!

  10. September 3, 2008 8:36 pm

    in case you can’t see, my mouth is agape right now. I’ll take some tomatoes ๐Ÿ™‚ looks like you put all those tomatoes to good use though!!

  11. September 4, 2008 9:41 am

    Wow! What a green thumb you have! Everything looks so delicious!

    We’d like to invite you to participate in our September apple and peach recipe contest (the recipe can be sweet or savory). All competitors will be eligible to win one of three prizes :)! Please email me,, if you’re interested. Feel free to check out our blog for more details:

    Thanks :),
    KI Blogger

  12. September 4, 2008 10:59 pm

    I’m completely jealous. I’d be hard-pressed to say that we got more than about 20 cherry tomatoes total from our three plants. They just didn’ do well, unfortunately!

    All of your ideas for utilizing your tomatoes look especially appetizing!

  13. Tara permalink
    September 5, 2008 11:34 am

    Wow! Those pictures look amazing-I am totally hungry now! Martha Stewart has a bloody mary recipe that uses whole frozen cherry tomatoes. Freezing whole takes some freezer room, but is so easy to do. And woudl be so good later ๐Ÿ™‚ Especially with your color collection.

  14. September 6, 2008 8:40 am

    You totally have me inspired to gather (hoard) tomatoes while I still can get them in season and put up in a number of ways for the fall and winter. Thanks……

  15. September 7, 2008 8:40 am

    Congrats on your AMAZING garden!!!

    And those pictures… oh my… I just need that steak salad and those dried tomatoes!

  16. September 7, 2008 2:19 pm

    Amy: You got a makeover! I love it. And the tomatoes. Be still my beating heart. Hope you’re not drowning in them, though.

  17. September 7, 2008 2:30 pm

    Wow- I am really jealous of all those tomatoes! The colors are gorgeous.
    As for what I am doing with tomatoes. . . I just made a roasted tomato tart, and plan to make another one soon. It was SO delicious.

  18. September 7, 2008 3:25 pm

    Thanks, Sue! I hope you can have a garden next year too.

    Lauren – cherry tomatoes are *so* easy to grow in a pot; you should really give it a try next year. All you need is a sunny, warm spot!

    Betsy – ooh, good idea on the tomato sauce…I hate peeling tomatoes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Rebecca – how delicious it will be to have those roasted summer vegetables in the cold winter months!

    Thanks, Lynne!

    LyB – yes, slow-roasted tomatoes are my new weakness. They’re just *so* good.

    Thanks, Maggie!

    ttfn300 — yes, we definitely did. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for the invite, Haley.

    RecipeGirl – so sorry to hear about your tomato plants…I think we lucked out with weather here this year.

    Tara – *great* idea to freeze whole; I am going to try that!

    Kim – great!

    Robin – thanks, hope you enjoy those recipes!

    Kristin – thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, it was time for a face-lift… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Tiffany – a roasted tomato tart sounds SO good. Yum!

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