Five Ways to Use Those Tomatoes "on the Verge"

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We purchase an inordinate number of tomatoes, at an alarming rate, on a weekly basis. We never learn our lesson, because we adore tomatoes so very much and we are (apparently) incapable of showing restraint. We buy tomatoes on the vine, we buy heirlooms at the market, we buy cherry or grape tomatoes specifically for salad, and we grab up Roma tomatoes because they are always cheap and we can generally find a use for them somewhere when we've run through the rest of our supply.

Yes, we seriously eat that many tomatoes.

By the end of the week, we are always in a rush to use up some portion of our stock. So in addition to our many "Hey, these fresh tomatoes are perfect for this!" recipes, we have had to cultivate a number of recipes to use up tomatoes that are on the verge of going wrong. Here are five of our favorites.

5. Oven-roasted Tomatoes

Oven-roasting your own tomatoes is far cheaper than buying sun-dried tomatoes at the store. Not only do we roast tomatoes that are about to go bad, sometimes we purchase a couple pounds (usually Roma) just for roasting purposes. Throw them in salads, use them to make sauce or soup richer, or toss with plain pasta, white beans and a little Parmesan cheese -- voilà! Dinner. I slice the tomatoes about a quarter-inch thick, lay flat on a lined cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and roast in the oven until they are dark and shriveled -- that's science.

4. Roasted Tomatoes & Cipollini Onions

Yes, another recipe from The Smitten Kitchen! You don't need to tell me I have a problem -- I know. Simple and sinful, there are just a few ingredients: heirloom tomatoes, cipollini onions, white beans (I like cannellini, natch), olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh basil and crusty Italian bread.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and spread one pound each, tomatoes and onions, in a roasting pan; cover with one-quarter cup olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt, and roast for 45 minutes. Every fifteen minutes or so, reach and turn the ingredients so they get good color on all sides.

A few minutes before you pull the tomatoes and onions, slice the bread and toast it in the oven, then arrange on a serving platter. Dump the white beans (drained and rinsed, if you are using canned) over top the bread, and then pour the tomatoes and onions over the whole thing, scraping all of the juices from the dish. This is important because those juices? They are gonna change your life. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

3. Salsa or Bruschetta

Normally I opt for bruschetta but now that I'm here in Texas, my salsa-production has increased. Salsa and a dollop of sour cream are my absolute favorite way to dress a salad -- even more than oil and vinegar. I'm in the market for a seriously good salsa recipe, so please share. My go-to bruschetta is quick: chop tomatoes, douse in olive oil and vinegar (sometimes red wine, sometimes balsamic, depending on my mood), add minced garlic and onion, salt, and pepper; marinate one hour. Add torn basil just before serving, and serve with bread or pita chips.

2. Sauce

A simple, straightforward, homemade marinara sauce is just a handful of ingredients away -- and one of those ingredients is fresh tomatoes. You can definitely use canned tomatoes for sauce, but I was shocked to find a very easy, fast recipe for sauce that has become a favorite on weeknights when I only have the energy to chop, and stir, and mix, and serve.

Chop one to one-and-a-half pounds of tomatoes into a medium dice. Chop one small onion, and two to four cloves of garlic into a small dice. Heat several (three to four) tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan, add the onion and cook until translucent; add garlic and tomatoes, a few tablespoons of water, and salt and pepper and cook for about a half hour. Remove from heat, let cool, and puree in a blender or food processor; reheat, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve with pasta.

1. Stuffed Tomatoes

This is one of those "I hated it when I was a kid" dishes. Stuffed anything grossed me out when I was little -- mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes -- but today these are go-to recipes, especially when I'm cooking for myself.

To make: Wash large tomatoes, slice off tops (reserve them) and scoop out the pulp; chop pulp and drain in fine mesh strainer while tomatoes drain, upside down, on a rack. Boil small pasta (orzo, ditalini, acini di pepe) and drain a few minutes earlier than the recommended cooking time.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine pasta with the chopped tomato pulp and any other flavor elements you have on hand -- chopped herbs, olives, finely chopped vegetables like peppers, cheese -- and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the tomatoes, replace the tops; place in one layer on a well-oiled baking dish, and bake for about 20 minutes. I like these hot, but they are also delicious warm, or even cold the next day.

Honorable mention: Get a two-fer and use up old bread by making panzenella salad with stale bread and fresh tomatoes, onion, and basil in a vinaigrette dressing. Also, my dad's tomato and eggs which, along with several thick slices of crusty bread, is desert island food.

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