Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tomato Inspiration

Inspiration has left the building. We’ve all been there. You stand in front of an open pantry or refrigerator faced with another meal to prepare. Hungry people are counting on you. Not to mention your own stomach is growling its displeasure.

Lately my lack of inspiration is directed towards tomatoes. My husband, The Picky Eater, loves them, so we always have them in the kitchen. He even buys the mushy, flavorless ones in the grocery store during the winter. (He cuts them up and smothers the chunks with Dorothy Lynch or Ott’s French-style salad dressings, so I guess the actual tomato flavor doesn’t really matter.) However, in the summer we buy them fresh from the farmers market at least once and sometimes twice a week. And after eating them sliced with salt, on sandwiches, made into sauce, and cut up in a salad over and over again, I was in need of new tomato insight.

Where do you turn when you’re on the hunt for a recipe brainstorm? If you’re like me, the first stop on the meal-time inspiration express is the internet. Perhaps you grab a cookbook off the shelf. Or you start flipping through the recipe file.

There is one recipe treasure trove you need to explore if you haven’t discovered it already—the public library. Seriously!

Libraries can be a food lover’s dream escape. Mine is! The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library has a huge cookbook section that covers every food topic. I was able to find cookbooks for just about everyone except the most obscure on the Gourmet Live 50 Women Game-Changers list. It is also a great resource for local and regional cookbooks that don’t make the national radar. My library also has a small farmers market on Mondays and a coffee shop. Heaven!

The only drawback: I often find myself buying a copy of a cookbook discovered at the library because I must have one of my own.

Yes, my name is Linda and I’m a cookbookaholic.

Today’s recipe comes from one of those books. The Rolling Prairie Cookbook was published in 1998 as a way to help Kansans know what to do with the produce that arrived in their weekly Community Supported Agriculture box. It is not only filled with inspiring vegetable, fruit, and herb recipes, but it also give tips on how to handle and store each tasty item.

The tomato section was full of simple idea and recipes.

This was what I had for lunch today: leftover French bread and goat cheese from the #CookForJulia #SundaySupper recipe topped with thin slices of tomato and sprinkled with a little dried oregano, kosher salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Toasted in the toaster oven until warm, this simple sandwich was heavenly!

This was the side dish for tonight’s dinner: Herbed Garden-Fresh Tomatoes. I was a little nervous because I knew my Picky Eater isn't fond of balsamic vinegar, but I didn’t need to worry. He loved it! The flavors were refreshing and the ingredients brought out the wonderful taste of the fresh summer tomatoes.

It would be easy to play with this recipe and try different ingredient combinations, such as adding cucumbers or celery, or perhaps some mozzarella or feta cheese. The book also suggests avocado or Greek olives.

But I will keep it simple, both for my wonderful Picky Eater and to make sure the tomatoes stay center stage.

Herbed Garden-Fresh Tomatoes
Adapted from Rolling Prairie Cookbook by Nancy O’Connor
Serves 6

6 to 8 ripe tomatoes, chopped in large chunks
4 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh minced basil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place all of the ingredients except the olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Stir gently to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar, then drizzle it over the top of the tomato mixture. Stir once more to coat the tomatoes with the dressing.

Serve this dish at room temperature soon after making.


  1. How about a recipe for the your sandwich you had for lunch? The
    1st pic.

  2. There was really no recipe. Here's what I did: I cut a piece of French bread in half and spead goat cheese on each half. Then I placed thinly-sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkled on a little dried oregano, salt and pepper. Then I put it under the broiler in the toaster oven until it got warm and the edged of the bread toasted. That's it!

  3. Sometime try just bread (toasted or not) with mayo (I prefer heavy on the mayo)tomatos (heavily salted also) and some might want lettuce but I prefer not and there's one of my favorite tomato sandwiches!

  4. Linda, I love books too and when I see something in the library I like, I buy it for myself. :)

  5. I'm really into tomatoes at the moment, so thanks for the inspiration! Drool. love the pictures of the books.

  6. It's funny ... we only have fresh tomatoes during the summer ...the rest of the year, we tend toward the canned or preserved sauces to make the 'tomato connection' - these days, it's all about keeping the counters clear of them as they roll through the back door from the garden! You gave me a couple fresh ideas!

  7. Fredda, I remember my aunt eating tomato sandwiches when I was a kid. A BLT without the B and T!

  8. This recipes looks delicious! I can't wait for home grown tomatoes!