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August, 2009

National Tomato Month

By Mark Mulcahy

If August isn’t National Tomato Month, it should be (actually it’s October).

The days are hot and long, perfect for growing big, round, firm, rich, juicy, ripe tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and begging to be eaten. Buying Melissa’s tomatoes means you don’t have to settle for just the standard slicer that you find in most stores throughout the year. As you know, Melissa’s always has the best- tasting tomatoes for you to choose from, all year long. But at this time of year you can choose from a much wider Melissa’s selection of colors and flavors during these dog days of summer. Choose from Heirlooms for salads, Romas for grilling and sauce, or beefsteaks the size of a softball for fresh tomato sandwiches. Hmmm, hmmm good! And speaking of sandwiches with tomatoes on them, did you see this recipe when you were on our home page?

Grilled Sausage, Veggie and Organic Tomato Sandwich
Grilled Sausage, Veggie and Organic Tomato Sandwich

1/4 cup Real Mayonnaise
3 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic, minced
1/2 Melissa’s Organic Lemon, juice, freshly squeezed
4 Spicy Italian Sausage Links (approx. 3 ounces each)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, as needed
8 ounces Melissa’s Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers, drained
1 Melissa’s Organic Zucchini sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 Yellow Crookneck Squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 Melissa’s Maui Onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 Melissa’s Organic Tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 French Bread Rolls, halved
8 slices Baby Swiss Cheese

Mix together the first three ingredients and place in the refrigerator. Heat barbecue grill to high heat. Grill the sausage until completely cooked through. Remove from the grill and set aside to rest. Meanwhile, brush all of the vegetables, except for the bell peppers, with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides, until heated through and you have nice grill marks.

To Assemble
Spread the mayonnaise over both sides of the bread. Split the sausages in half and place on the bread. Evenly divide the vegetables among the bread and top with the cheese.

A great sandwich with a glass of iced tea or an ice-cold beer. I would also add that you could easily substitute a nice veggie brat if you aren’t eating meat or are entertaining some vegetarians for lunch. As you can see, just the mention of good tomatoes can lead you off on a tangent. So back to my point: I say with all of this choice we should make it unofficial tomato month at the store where you buy all of your Melissa’s produce. You don’t need permission or big promotions, you just need some delicious Melissa’s tomatoes. Start by loading up on Melissa’s heirlooms, such as my favorite

Black Krim – dark red with greenish tops, these have a sweet and savory flavor, great for sandwiches and sauce. Brandywine –this Amish heirloom variety dates back to the late 1800's, a bit fragile but worth the extra care. Or even some yellow one’s like a Marvel Stripe, which is a great late season heirloom that is usually large, has yellow-orange fruits with red stripes and is sweet and fruity. You get the idea… Then move on to Melissa’s roma tomatoes and start thinking about easy sauce and salsa-making recipes. There is nothing like the taste of homemade tomato sauce/salsa, and in these budget-conscious times when we are all looking for ways to stretch our dollar, I’m sure you will appreciate the opportunity to try something made in your own kitchen. And it wouldn’t be tomato month without cherry tomatoes, right?

Choose from a whole slew of these multicolored beauties. I love this time of year because you can mix and match, Red Pear Sungold, Sweet 100, Yellow Currant, or a host of many others. Added to a salad or a sauté you’ll taste a new bit of summer sunshine in every bite. Speaking of a nice sauté recipe, try this other recipe I found on the home page that is made with a summer staple, fresh basil.

Nutty Tomato Sauté
Nutty Tomato Sauté

2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic, sliced very thin
3 ounces Melissa’s Pine Nuts
3 medium Melissa’s Organic Tomatoes, seeded and diced
5 large Melissa’s Basil Leaves, cut into ribbons
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes, crushed
Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and heat until aromatic, stirring constantly, about 20 seconds. Add the pine nuts and heat until toasted. Stir often, being careful not to let the garlic and pine nuts burn. Once toasted, add the tomatoes and cook until just heated through. Add the basil and red pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper and toss. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.

Also works really well as a relish for grilled swordfish or halibut. I actually like this stuffed in my favorite spinach wrap as a nice summer lunch. I‘ve got to share one more new tomato favorite recipe I tried recently. Pair tomatoes with another summer favorite, watermelon. I know you are saying to yourself what the heck are you thinking, Mark? But these two fruits go well together in a late summer Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho. It is sweet and savory and easy to make.

Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho


6 cups Melissa’s Seedless Watermelon, roughly chopped
3 cups Melissa’s Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Melissa’s Peeled Shallot, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Put 5-1/2 cups of the watermelon, 2-1/2 cups of the tomatoes, shallots, oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, salt and pepper into a blender and purée until smooth. Transfer purée to a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl and strain purée, pressing as much through as possible; discard solids. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Finely chop remaining 1/2 cup watermelon, 1/2 cup tomatoes and 2 tablespoons cilantro and toss together in a bowl. Pour chilled soup into bowls or glasses and top with watermelon-tomato mixture. Make sure to serve it well chilled. Serves 4.

Now I’m sure you can see why I’m declaring this unofficial tomato month!

Here are a few tomato tips to help you enjoy these summer beauties even more:

• Ever wonder what’s the best knife to use when cutting a tomato? Serrated or non-serrated? Both, as long as your non-serrated knife is super sharp.
• Another tip that is just as important as the knife used is to cut them from top to bottom instead of crosswise as most folks do. This will retain more juice. And to use a sawing motion instead of bearing down with the knife on the fruit.
• Making sauce for pasta? Remember to avoid cooking your tomatoes in iron or aluminum pots because the acid in tomatoes interacts with these metals and can create an “off” flavor.
• You’ve often heard “Do not store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator,” But do you know why? It’s because this will cause them to become pulpy and lose their flavor. For the best flavor, store at room temperature and out of the sunlight. Ripe tomatoes should be used within a few days.

You say tomato and I’ll say hmmm.