Nothing says summer like the first bite of a garden tomato.

No sooner do you take that taste than all the backyard tomatoes turn red and beg to be picked. Or so it seems. Not to worry. We have plenty of ideas on how to use up those red beauties.

Freeze them: Varieties used for sauce, such as romas or plum tomatoes, are easy to freeze. Cut out the cores and bag and freeze. When you’re ready to use them, drop them in warm water for a few minutes and the skin will slide right off.

Pure them: Boil them with a little water, put them through a food mill and place in 1-cup amounts in zip-close bags. Label and freeze.

Roast them: Core and halve the tomatoes, place in a single layer in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 325 degrees for 90 minutes to two hours, until they’re very soft. Bag and freeze, or cover with their cooking oil and refrigerate for a week. You also can puree and freeze.

Dry them: Line cookie sheets with plastic wrap. Slice tomatoes crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick, and lay slices on the trays, with no overlapping. Cover against bugs with a protective screen or cheesecloth and set outside in full sun. After a hot day or two, they might be dry enough to turn. If there are no calls for rain, the tomatoes can stay out 24 hours a day until they are dry in about three to four days. Store dried tomato slices in zip-close bags in the refrigerator to enjoy during winter.

Tomato Puree

10 pounds very ripe plum tomatoes,

cut in quarters

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

In a large pot, heat the water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Mix in the tomatoes, and cook for about

15 minutes or until they start to soften and break down. Reduce heat to low, add salt and keep cooking for about 2 hours or until the volume of liquid has reduced by one-third. Remove from heat and cool. Pass the mixture through a food mill to remove the solids. Place the puree in 1 cup amounts in freezer bags, press out the air and zip shut. Label and freeze. They’ll keep for at least three months. Makes 12 cups.

Source: “The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook” by Brian Yarvin (The Countryman Press, $19.95).

Bell Pepper and Tomato Bisque

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion

2 large bell peppers

3 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups carrots or potatoes, diced

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, including romas, halved

4 cups stock

2 tablespoons fresh basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 cup half-and-half

Heat a large stockpot over high heat. Add the oil and saute the onion and bell peppers for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, paprika, salt and carrots and saut0x233 for 15 minutes or until the carrots become tender. If mixture sticks, throw in a halved tomato. Decrease the heat to medium, stir in the tomatoes and cook until they dissolve. Stir in the stock, 2 tablespoons basil and the parsley. Simmer for 30 minutes. Pur0x233e the soup in a blender. Return the soup to a clean pot and reheat. Adjust seasoning. To serve, spoon the soup into a bowl and garnish with a bit of half-and-half. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: If you cut the tomatoes in half and let them dissolve into the onions, it’s easy to fish out the tomato peels, which will curl and float to the top after the broth is added.

Source: Adapted from “Organic Marin: Recipes From Land to Table” by Tim Porter and Farina Wong Kingsley (Andrew McMeel, $29.95).

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Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

4 large ripe tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus oil for baking dish

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

1/2 pound ground lamb or beef or pork

1/2 cup uncooked white rice

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chicken broth

Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Use a serrated grapefruit spoon to hollow out the bodies. Reserve bodies, tops and pulp.

Heat the oil, onion and garlic in a skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring, for

15 minutes or until the onion begins to turn golden on the edges. Add the lamb and 1 cup of the reserved tomato pulp and continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until meat is completely browned. Mix in rice, pine nuts, raisins, salt and broth. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer covered for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Oil a baking dish. Fill the hollow tomatoes with the meat mixture and stand them on end in the baking dish. Place the reserved tops on the tomatoes. Brush tomatoes with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes or until completely cooked. Serve warm. Makes 4 servings.

Source: “The Too Many Tomatoes Cookbook” by Brian Yarvin (The Countryman Press, $19.95).


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