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Thankful for summer produce

Bryan Gilchrist/

Fresh, vine-ripe tomatoes are some of the best things to enjoy during a California summer.


This past week I have feasted on farm-ripe fresh tomato sandwiches for dinner, along with the best corn-on-the-cob ever. The tomatoes came from a farm in Madera and the corn was grown and sold at California State University, Fresno. I can’t say enough good things about those tomatoes and corn, but you just don’t get things that good at most grocery stores.

I love my tomato sandwiches with a slab of sweet red onion and some salt and pepper.

Thank heaven for summer produce. I must admit I had to give up trying to grow my own tomatoes, because the local critters just wouldn’t leave any for me. I even grew the plants in containers on my deck, and put wire cages around them and across the tops. Squirrels, pack rats and chipmunks would reach their tiny paws through the wire to get the tomatoes close enough for their choppers to attack the tomatoes.

If you love fresh tomatoes as much as I do, here are some recipes I hope you like.

Tomato, cheese and bacon pie

Crust: 2 1/4 cups self-rising flour 1 cup cold butter, cut up 8 cooked bacon slices, chopped 3/4 cup sour cream

Filling: 2 3/4 pounds assorted large tomatoes, divided 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese 1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1 large egg, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1 green onion, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

  1. For crust: Place flour in a large bowl; cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Chill 10 minutes.

  2. Add bacon to flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Gradually add sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

  3. Spoon mixture onto a heavily floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour, and knead 3 or 4 times, adding more flour as needed. Roll to a 13-inch round. Gently place dough in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with 2-inch sides and a removable bottom. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Chill 30 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, prepare Filling: Cut 2 pounds tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Allow to stand 30 minutes.

  5. Preheat oven to 425. Stir together Cheddar cheese, next 10 ingredients and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until well mixed.

  6. Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 pound tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on top of pie.

  7. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil for the last 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. Allow to stand for 1 to 2 hours before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Tomato salad and grilled shrimp

Cooking spray 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 5 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, mint, and/or chives 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 teaspoon lemon zest 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper 1 garlic clove, minced or crushed 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 2 pounds peeled and deveined large raw shrimp 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 pounds small tomatoes, sliced or quartered Garnishes: fresh dill, basil, mint, and chives

  1. Coat cold grill grate with cooking spray. Preheat grill to 350 to 400 (medium-high heat). In a small bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil and next 6 ingredients. whisk in 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Arrange tomatoes on a large serving platter or in a large bowl, and drizzle with 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Sprinkle with desired amount of salt and pepper.

  2. Toss shrimp with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink.

  3. Toss grilled shrimp with remaining vinaigrette, and arrange over tomatoes. Or, if desired, toss together shrimp, remaining vinaigrette, and tomatoes. Makes 6 servings.

Triple tomato flatbread

1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust Cooking spray 3 plum tomatoes, finely chopped (about 2 cups) 1/2 cup soft sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil), julienned 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon dried basil 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese 2 cups yellow and/or red cherry tomatoes, halved

  1. Unroll and press dough into a 15-by-10-inch rectangle. Transfer dough to an 18-by-12-inch piece of heavy-duty foil coated with cooking spray; spritz dough with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss plum tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes with oil and seasonings.

  2. Carefully invert dough onto grill rack; remove foil. Grill, covered, over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Turn; grill 1 to 2 minutes longer or until second side begins to brown.

  3. Remove from grill. Spoon plum tomato mixture over crust; top with cheese and cherry tomatoes. Return flatbread to grill. Grill, covered, 2 to 4 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Makes 8 pieces.

Open-faced tomato sandwiches with cucumber spread

1 package (8-oz.) cream cheese, softened 2 cucumbers, seeds removed and diced (about 2 cups) 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for serving 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving 6 Texas Toast slices or other thick white bread slices, toasted 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds assorted fresh tomatoes (about 3 large), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Thinly sliced chives

  1. For spread: In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, cucumbers, red onion, dill, mint, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper until thoroughly mixed.

  2. To assemble sandwiches: Spread about 1/4 cup of the cucumber mixture onto each slice of the toasted bread. Top each with 2 to 3 tomato slices, and drizzle each with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle tomatoes with chives, salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

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