Dash of Class: Bring tomatoes to the table

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By Nora Sweat

It is time to continue our alphabetical tour of the produce section. Today, we reach the letter T. And what item in the produce section is better known than the tomato?

Then, there is the ever famous question: Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? A tomato is a vegetable, but it is a fruit type of vegetable, which grows and blooms and then the product grows from that bloom. Other fruit types of vegetables include cucumbers, green peppers, zucchini and squash.

I’ll give you tomato recipes that can be used in different parts of a meal. Tomato Salsa is a great appetizer and liked by many. A main course for tomato lovers is Tomato Pie. Tomato Gravy is nice as a sauce over rice, pasta or pan fried meats such as chicken, fish and pork. Tomato Jam can be served with bread, and Tomato Salad is another treat for tomato lovers. Even if you love tomatoes, don’t try serving all these together.

Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of HardinCounty and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenewsenterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

3 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 c. finely diced onion

5 Serrano chilies, finely chopped

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1 t. salt

2 t. lime juice

In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour before serving.

Tomato Gravy

2 T. margarine

2 T. flour

1/2 c. milk

1 t. sugar or honey

1/2 t. salt

2 c. whole tomatoes, peeled

Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

In a skillet over low heat, melt butter. Stir in the flour; stirring until smooth.

Bring to a boil and then stir in milk, a little at a time, until mixture thickens. Add the teaspoon of sugar or honey, as well as the salt and pepper. Stir continuously.

While stirring, slowly add the juice from the tomatoes. Once it has all been incorporated, add the tomatoes and mash. Return to a boil and then simmer until the gravy is at the desired thickness.

Sweet n’ Spicy Tomato Jam

1 lb. tomatoes, roughly cut

½ c. brown sugar

½ Serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely diced

4 whole cloves

1” stick cinnamon

1-2 T. red wine vinegar

1 T. plus 1 ½ t. fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and then simmer over medium low heat. Stir occasionally and gently. Simmer about an hour or until the mixture thickens to a jam-like consistency.

Put tomato jam into sterilized jars. For longer storage, can in a water bath, covering with water about one inch above jars and simmering for about 15 minutes, or just store in the fridge to keep for a couple weeks.

Tomato Salad

2 1/4 pounds ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A generous pinch dried oregano

Red wine or balsamic vinegar

Extra vigin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and grated

1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped

Slice some of the tomatoes in half, some into quarters, and others into uneven chunks. This will give you the beginnings of a tomato salad. Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a pinch of sea salt.

Give them a toss, season again and give them a couple more tosses. The salt won’t be drawn into the tomatoes; instead it will draw out excess moisture, concentrating flavors. Leave the tomatoes in the colander on top of a bowl to stand for 15 minutes. Discard juice.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle with oregano. Make dressing using 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, add garlic, and chile.

Tomato Pie

9-inch pie shell, unbaked

1/2 onion, chopped

3-4 tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, squeezed to remove excess juice, roughly chopped, to 

yield 3 cups chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup sliced fresh basil

2 cups grated cheese, combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey jack or mozzarella

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pie shell 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-cooked pie shell with chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the sliced basil over the tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, mix the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Tabasco and a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.

Bake 25 to 45 minutes until browned and bubbly, 25 to 45 minutes.

Yield: Serves 6.