Category Archives: 30 Days of Tomatoes

Tomatoes Day 30: Tomato Gravy From Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

It’s the final day of 30 Days of Tomatoes, and it’s a good thing because the tomatoes are waning in my backyard garden. The heat is taking its toll, and the stinkbugs are sucking all of the juice out of my remaining crop,

I hope you have enjoyed this blog launch as much as I have. The highlight for me has been using some of thecookbooks that I had never cracked open.

One of them was Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, a Christmas gift from my husband several years ago. After receiving this cookbook, I declared no more cookbook Christmas presents, but I have had to apologize profusely. Why did I wait seven years before using it? It’s one of the best southern cookbooks out there with classic recipes, and the writing is spectacular too.

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea author is Mississippian Martha Hall Foose, the former executive chef of the Viking Cooking School. Viking makes high-end ranges in Greenwood, Mississippi, and operates a  cooking school there.

Hall lives on the family farm in Tchula, Mississippi but had pastry school trainng in France so she adds a sophisticated flair to some of her Deep South dishes. There’s actually a dessert called Sweet Tea Pie in the cookbook. Some other recipes have interesting names such as “Sold My Soul to the Devil-ed Eggs” and “Swimming Pool Orange Sherbet.”

I also made her Lady Pea Salad featured on the cookbook cover, and soon I am going to make her Baked Sweet Onions — Vidalia or sweet Texas onions baked in apple juice and topped with summer figs and black walnuts (never combined those two in a recipe).

To end our 30 Days of Tomatoes, I’m including this simple Tomato Gravy recipe.  It’s too hot to cook anything for very long, but you can probably handle seven minutes for this yummy recipe.

Recipe: Tomato Gravy From Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

Note: I’ll cut the blogging down to twice a week and return to more general farmstand, bicycling and road trip topics.

Tomatoes Day 29: Tomato Vinaigrette

A couple of years ago I took a Summer Salads cooking class through LSU Shreveport’s Continuing Education.  The instructor, Tulin Melancon, is from Turkey (“Melancon” comes from marrying a Louisiana man) and had lots of ideas on making Mediterranean-style salad vinaigrettes.

She advocated making flavor-intense vinaigrettes and using just a little instead of drenching salads with calorie-laden dressings.  She is a delightful instructor and a great cook so if you ever have a chance to take one of her classes, I highly recommend them.

This recipe is similar to one she shared. I have been using a lot of basil lately so I used mint as she used in her vinaigrette.   I also have an abundance of mint in my herb garden. I used a combination of spearmint and peppermint  and was pleased with the tomato and mint pairing. I also added shallots.

You can play around with the ingredients. Add lemon or lime juice or honey. I cut the olive oil in half and liked the intense balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard with the tomatoes and mint. You could even substitute chicken stock for some of the oil to cut calories.

So give yourself a break from the bottled salad dressings and taste the freshness of homemade salad vinaigrettes.

Recipe: Tomato Vinaigrette

Tomatoes Day 28: My Fourth Trip to Vicksburg’s The Tomato Place

You can read about a previous trip I took to The Tomato Place here.

The best way to describe the atmosphere at The Tomato Place in Vicksburg is a cross between Caribbean smoothie bar and Mississippi produce stand.

If you can’t image what that is like, I understand. You are just going to have to go experience The Tomato Place yourself. Owner Luke Hughes was interviewed by some publication, and said it takes four visits to know what this place is about. I just got back from my fourth visit so I guess I know a thing or two.

Tomatoes and potatoes
Baskets of local tomatoes and potatoes

It is a farm stand selling tomatoes and other produce. Plus, there’s lunch where BLTs are the best sellers. But there’s also such entrees as catfish platters and grilled salmon. And, then there are smoothies—that and the bright colors around the place are where the Caribbean comes in.

My first visit to The Tomato Place last October was a quick stop. I’m not a regular smoothie fan so I passed. Next time, I got a natural plum smoothie and have become hooked. I’ve also had the apple blackberry, and it was great too.

The lunches I had also were wonderful, although I’ll warn you that the service is leisurely. I had a BLT club and pound cake a week ago, and earlier I had chicken salad and the pork skins that are fried on site. They come to the table crackling hot with a cup of The Tomato Place’s signature product, Mississippi Fever, a liquidy pepper jelly.

Tomatoes and watermelons were from Smith County, Mississippi. Peaches from Chilton County, Alabama and Lake Providence, Louisiana. If you poke around the nooks and crannies, you will find an eclectic merchandise mix —  grits and popcorn, local artwork, jazz CDs and fedoras.

I went outside and got Luke to pose for a picture and was struck by this purple petunia against the faded red painting on a shed. The Tomato Place is a cluster of sheds and shacks

Luke Hughes
Owner Luke Hughes opened The Tomato Place in 2000

Petunia Against Red Shed

Uncle Si and the folks at Duck Dynasty have been by for a show, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting did an interesting segment on The Tomato Place, which you can view here.

Tomatoes and BLTs are the best sellers, but the smoothies are what I will go back for.   I don’t want to ever cross the Mississippi River into my home state without swinging down to The Tomato Place and getting one.

The Tomato Place is on U.S. Highway 61 South, about four miles south of Vicksburg. thetomatoplace.com

Tomatoes Day 27: Tomatoes and More At These Mississippi Farmers Markets

I was in the Jackson, Mississippi area over the July 4 weekend and got to visit the dueling farmers markets less than two miles apart in downtown Jackson.

It’s a long story that has something to do with one market allowing peaches from Alabama  and the other not. And then some rules changed, but vendors did not want to move. I’ll spare you more details, but I enjoyed both of them and bought tomatoes — and a few other things — from both.

Baskets of produce at the old Jackson market on Woodrow Wilson
Baskets of produce at the old Jackson market on Woodrow Wilson

They each have strengths. The old one on Woodrow Wilson has just a few big vendors and a more classic open air farmer’s market look. The newer one at the state fairgrounds is indoors with more mom and pop farmers.

Here are a few more photos from my visits.

Tomatoes Day 26: Garden Fresh Bruschetta From Spend With Pennies

When I searched for tomato recipes on Pinterest during the last month, this recipe from Spend With Pennies came up again and again.

I took the hint and tried it last night, and I am suggesting you do the same tonight. It’s super simple, and I only added one thing — grated parmesan.

I love reading frugal living blogs as well as food blogs. Blend frugality and food, and I’m even more excited. There’s moneysavingmom.com. You don’t have to be a mom to like some of her tips. My youngest daughter likes to fill her freezer with these breakfast burritos from moneysavingmom.com .

Then there is budgetbytes.com with the tagline “My Stomach is Full and My Wallet is Too.” Each recipe lists the price per ingredient and then a total per serving . But don’t expect rice, beans and Ramen noodles. Beth, the author, Iives in New Orleans so she has the city’s food reputation to uphold.

There’s so many more — thriftydecorchick.com  and livingwellspendingless.com  are two of my other favorites. But I have digressed away from Spend With Pennies.  The name comes from its origin as a shopping deals blog, but Holly, the author,  is now making it into more of a food blog catering to everyday cooks. I can’t wait to try her Dill Pickle Pasta Salad. She still tracks online shopping bargains and also has a lot of thrifty DIY projects.

Spending an hour reading through some of these reminds me of a time — long before blogs or Amazon or ebay — when I was a young stay-at-home mom trying to stretch one income. There was a writer who sent out a newsletter and wrote books under The Tightwad Gazette name.  It stirred my frugal creativity at the time, although some of her suggestions were mighty extreme. She retired the newsletter 20 years ago, but if you ever wondered what happened to her, I found an interview on another popular frugal living blog, the simple dollar.com.

Recipe: Garden Fresh Bruschetta

Weight Watchers SmartPoints. 2 for the bruschetta spread including parmesan. Bread will add 4-5 per slice.

Tomatoes Day 25: Pasta With Fresh Tomato Sauce From Martha Stewart

This is my go-to meatless “pantry” meal when I don’t have anything fresh to cook, and I don’t feel like going out. Boil some pasta, add some canned petite tomatoes and tomato sauce and top with sautéed peppers, mushrooms and onions.

Sometimes, I top with toasted pine nuts or olive mix. The olive mix is a Louisiana thing. The best known is from Central Grocery in New Orleans, but I much prefer Shreveport-based Monjuni’s.

This is pretty good with the canned tomatoes, but it’s extraordinary using fresh tomatoes. I strip most of the seeds from the tomatoes. I’m not militant about it. I’m OK with leaving a few seeds in. Fresh tomato sauce can be a bit runny, so if you want it a bit thicker, stir in a little tomato paste.

I’m not usually drawn to Martha Stewart’s recipes, but I’m sharing this because it’s simply good. In fact, since I have so many tomatoes this year, I may make a couple of batches of fresh tomato sauce to freeze.

I’m so glad our grocery stores have expanded their cheese sections and offer good parmesan cheese. Martha Stewart would not even think of doing anything but grating her own. And I agree with her on that for this recipe.

Recipe: Fresh Tomato Sauce From Martha Stewart

Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 8 for the sauce served with a cup of pasta

Tomatoes Day 24: Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Tostada from Weight Watchers

I am declaring it too hot to cook for the rest of the week, and I’m tempted to say the rest of the summer. So, we will be grilling out, mixing pimiento cheese and throwing together quick meals like this.

I was sitting in my Weight Watchers meeting last night–hungry and wondering what I was going to eat for supper. Then, I flipped through the Weekly (publication with recipes, exercise tips, inspiration, etc.) A recipe similar to this was there. I had all of the ingredients already. Supper problem solved.

I made a few changes. I picked up some corn relish from the Mississippi Farmers Market over the weekend and spooned some of it onto this tostada. I didn’t have green chile peppers so I just chopped up some jalapeno. I left the jicama and avocado out and went heavier on the tomatoes because we have a lot!

Recipe: Black Bean, Corn and Tomato Tostada From Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 4 per tostada

Tomatoes Day 23: Tuscan Tomato Chicken Pies From Oh Sweet Basil

Remember those spiral-bound Junior League and church cookbooks your mother or grandmother had? The ones where the recipes were submitted by Mrs. Robert Jones and other women using their husband’s names.

This tomato chicken pie looks like one of the recipes you would find in one of those books, although I don’t know if they were using much Tuscan seasoning then.

Doesn’t it look pretty on my mother’s Haviland Apple Blossom china?

I actually found this recipe on the Oh Sweet Basil Blog. And, it’s easy. However, I must say my tomato upside down part flopped. None of the pies came out with tomatoes intact. They remained at the bottom of the pan. All of them.  My solution was to put a slice on top of each pie and put the whole pan under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Worked beautifully.

So if you are Mrs. Robert Jones, Mrs. Robert Jones’s daughter or granddaughter or even Mr. Robert Jones,  I think you will enjoy these. They would be good served at bridge group,  garden club or church circle.

Recipe: Tuscan Tomato Upside Down Chicken Pies

Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 13. This is not a healthy recipe, although you can take the calories and points down by using reduced fat crescent rolls and less cheese.

Tomatoes Day 22: Watermelon, Tomato & Feta Salad From Farm Flavor

Happy July 4th!

To me July 4 is the beginning of watermelon season. When I was growing up we didn’t have seedless watermelons from Mexico in the stores year-round. The local ones started getting ripe around the Fourth of July.

Between now and the end of August is still prime watermelon season where I live. . Places such as Farmerville and Saline in Louisiana, Hope and Cave City in Arkansas, Mize and Water Valley in Mississippi and Luling and a bunch of other places in Texas and across the United States will be celebrating with watermelon festivals.

Growing up, we cut our watermelon into wedges and salted them. I still like them that way best, although I am trying to cut back on salt.

Watermelon Tomato Salad up close (665 x 499)

I’ve seen recipes for watermelon and tomato salad for several years but always passed. Why mess with the simple traditional way of eating watermelon? But I finally gave in and tried this watermelon, tomato and feta salad. I will be making it again!

I found the recipe on Farm Flavor, a new website to me. It’s a great resource for information on state-by-state agricultural products and regional foods.  It lists the number of farms and farmers markets in each state. I’m a bit of a geek about state agriculture stats and have spent way too much time there already.

What are the top four watermelon-producing states?

Florida, Georgia, California & Texas.

Recipe: Watermelon and Tomato Salad With Feta Cheese

Weight Watchers SmartPoints: 4 per serving

Tomatoes Day 21: The Tomatoes and Bushel Baskets of Jacksonville, Texas

We have frequently driven through Jacksonville, Texas, on our way to visit family in Texas and, later, our daughters at Texas A&M in College Station.

We miss going through Jacksonville, where the brown, stoned-fenced football stadium is called the Tomato Bowl. Jacksonville is known for its sweet tomatoes, and there’s a festival the second Saturday in June to celebrate the crop. No worry that you missed it. If you are in Shreveport you can buy Jacksonville tomatoes at the Shreveport Farmers Market.

But in addition to tomatoes, Jacksonville is known as the home of the Texas Basket Company, which has been around since 1919. You’ve seen their bushel and peck baskets with handles at farmer’s markets and supermarket produce sections. Many of our Texas trips included a stop at the Texas Basket Company seconds yard to find bargains. There is also a gift shop. Texas Basket Company is the largest commercial basket manufacturer of its kind in the United States. More here.

I like looking agrarian taking one of those baskets to pick blueberries or just gather tomatoes and cucumbers from my own backyard.

Jacksonville is 115 miles southwest of Shreveport. The Texas Basket Company is at 100 Myrtle Drive just off U.S.  79  as you enter town. The gift shop is closed Sundays.