Tomatoes a colorful and versatile summer staple

Rick Nelson

What is it about tomatoes? That they have the garden’s broadest color palette? That they impress straight off the vine? That they’re the backbone of so many favorite dishes? That they can grab center stage in a near-improvised meal? That their highly perishable qualities make them the poster child for locally grown foods? That they take to preservation of all stripes, whether it’s freezing, or canning?

All of the above.

Sweet-tart Sun Gold Tomato Soup

Serves 4.

2 pints (4 cups) Sun Gold tomatoes

2 shallots, finely diced and divided

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or chardonnay vinegar

1 firm avocado, diced into small pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons slivered basil,

marjoram and cilantro leaves

Pluck and discard the stems from the tomatoes, then rinse them. Put tomatoes in a heavy saucepan (with a tight-fitting lid) with half of the shallots, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup water. Cook over medium-high heat, keeping one ear inclined to the pot. Once you hear the tomatoes popping, take a peek to make sure there’s sufficient moisture in the pan so the tomatoes don’t scorch.

If skins are slow to pop and give up tomato juice, add a few extra tablespoons water as a precaution. Once tomatoes release their juices, reduce heat to low and gently cook for 25 additional minutes.

Run tomatoes through a food mill. You’ll have about 2 cups of thick puree. Chill well, then taste for salt.

Just before serving, combine the remaining shallots in a small bowl with the vinegar, avocado, olive oil and herbs. Season with a pinch or two of salt and some pepper. Spoon soup into small cups or bowl, divide the shallot-avocado mixture among them, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 12 g fat, 310 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 2 g saturated fat, 5 g total sugars, 2 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g dietary fiber

Exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 21/2 fat.

Tomato, Cheddar And Bacon Pie

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance.

2 1/4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour, plus extra for rolling dough

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces

8 cooked bacon slices, chopped

3/4 cup sour cream

2 3/4 pounds assorted tomatoes, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 cup (6 ounces) freshly

shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup freshly shredded

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 green onion, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

Fresh basil for garnish

In a bowl of an electric stand mixer on medium speed (or using a pastry cutter), combine flour and butter and mix until mixture resembles small peas. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Add bacon and mix at low speed until just combined. Add sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing just until blended after each addition.

On a heavily floured work surface, sprinkle dough lightly with flour and knead 3 to 4 times, adding more flour as needed. Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 13-inch round. Gently transfer dough to a 9-inch fluted tart pan with 2-inch sides and a removable bottom. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut 2 pounds of tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together Cheddar cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, mayonnaise, egg, dill, chives, parsley, vinegar, green onion, sugar, black pepper and remaining 1 teaspoon salt, mixing until combined.

Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust. Layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapped rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 pound tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange the freshly cut slices on top of pie.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with aluminum foil during last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Remove from oven, transfer tart pan to a wire rack and cool 1 to 2 hours before serving. Garnish with fresh basil.

Nutrition information per each of 8 servings: 655 calories, 51 g fat, 1,560 mg sodium, 34 g carbohydrates, 25 g saturated fat, 5 mg total sugars, 17 g protein, 135 mg cholesterol, 2 g dietary fiber

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 2 starch, 11/2 high-fat meat, 71/2 fat.

Claudia’s Panzanella

Serves 4 to 6.

For vinaigrette

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano

2 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped dill

For panzanella

1/2 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into cubes or torn into bite-size pieces

2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes

6 vine tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges

3 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced thickly

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

4 peaches, pitted and sliced

1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and sliced

To prepare vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, oregano, parsley and dill.

To prepare the panzanella: Place the bread cubes, tomatoes, onion, peaches and olives on a large platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings: 380 calories, 22 g fat, 1,580 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrates, 3 g saturated fat, 17 mg total sugars, 7 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g dietary fiber

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 3 vegetable, 1/2 fruit, 1 starch, 4 fat.