What’s red, and red, and red … 3 ideas to use tomatoes

Fans of farmers markets are enjoying the bounty of fresh, flavorful tomatoes, but if you’ve run out of ideas, I have a few standbys from the kitchen files.


Nothing is so tasty as a glorious ripe tomato. Or two, or three … dozen … try these ideas to use some of the crop.  (Photo copyright Laura Groch 2015)

First up is my favorite, panzanella, the Italian bread salad. The juices from chopped tomatoes moisten day-old Italian bread (or other sturdy bread, like country white or wheat bread).

I keep it simple, using day-old Italian bread and toasting about half a loaf’s slices to dry them further. I let them cool before tearing them into bite-sized pieces, then add two good-sized juicy tomatoes, cut into chunks, unpeeled.

Next into the bowl goes half a peeled cucumber, chunked; two thinly sliced green onions (or use a couple of slices of red onion, chopped); about a quarter-cup of julienned fresh basil leaves, if I’ve got it, otherwise a good sprinkle of dried basil; and a garlic clove or two, sliced thinly (or use a microplane grater). Got peppers? Add them too. A pinch of oregano (or some fresh leaves) is a nice touch.


Panzanella is cool and delicious, a great way to use up tomatoes. Photo by Laura Groch

Dress it all with about three tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste. Or use your favorite bottled Italian dressing.

After mixing the salad thoroughly, put it in the fridge for a few hours to blend the flavors. As a side dish, this serves about 4. (If your panzanella seems too dry, add tomato chunks or dressing.)

Turn it into a main-dish salad by adding some sliced salami or diced cooked chicken, ham or beef. Or beef up the veggie content: sliced hot peperoncini peppers; artichoke hearts; canned cooked white beans; diced provolone; chopped green or black olives; chopped Italian parsley; etc.

Next on my tomato hit parade is what I call fresh tomato sauce. We put it over hot cooked pasta, but you could easily use it as a bruschetta topping on sliced Italian bread or even on a larger sandwich.

Slice 1/2 of a large onion and a couple of garlic cloves; saute them in a skillet or saucepan with 2 tablespoons of good olive oil. When the veggies are almost softened, add 2 to 3 coarsely chopped tomatoes and stir. When the tomatoes are soft, add some dried or chopped fresh basil and a pinch of oregano. Use it as a topping for pasta, adding olive oil as needed, or on lovely sliced and toasted Italian bread. (Go a little beyond by melting some mozzarella on top.)

I have not tried this easy recipe yet, but it looks yummy, and I’m going to do so soon. It’s from Good Housekeeping’s May 2014 issue. Don’t limit yourself to linguine — I think this would work with any kind of pasta. Tuna with olive oil is practically a ready-made topping for hot cooked pasta, so this five-ingredient recipe really can’t get much simpler.


1 pound whole wheat linguine

1 pound zucchini, trimmed

2 cans (5 ounce each) tuna in olive oil, undrained

1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed, cut in half

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped

Cook linguine as label directs. Meanwhile, with vegetable peeler, peel zucchini into wide ribbons. Drain pasta.

Toss with zucchini, tuna and oil, tomatoes, capers and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serves 6.

If you’ve got a few more tomato ideas to share, please do so!

(c) copyright 2015 Laura Groch


2 thoughts on “What’s red, and red, and red … 3 ideas to use tomatoes

  1. “microplane grater”

    Now, we’ve talked about this before. What the HECK is that and no, I don’t have one in my kitchen. Real cooks just speak a whole different language from people like me.

    That said, I’m totally making this salad. It sounds fantastic – like a souped-up version of bruschetta, which I also love.


  2. a microplane grater looks like a totally evil nail file — a super large one — but it makes grating small things, like garlic cloves or ginger, very easy. It’s best I think with stuff that has to be grated finely — it might also work for citrus zest, too, where you want to shave off a bit from the peel. Look online to see what it looks like. I don’t think they’re very expensive. I didn’t have one myself till about 5 years ago and now I love mine. I think it’s OXO brand.


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