Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Tomatoes

Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)


You guys. So good.


I’m super-excited, because, after a long dry spell with very little cooking inspiration, we have just started up with a new CSA. This is how I always used to cook — get the fresh, in-season, local veggies, and go from there. Waste not, want not (especially for dinner inspiration).

Then we had a new baby. And we decided to cancel our CSA for a bit, since we knew we wouldn’t be cooking that much for the early weeks, and well… we’ve been planning dinner in a less organic, more what-can-we-make-happen-in-the-next-few-minutes-before-meltdowns-occur sort of way for a while now. Yeah.

But we’re back in the groove! Last week was out first delivery from Farmhouse Delivery, which is kind of a local aggregate CSA for the Austin area. I love it already. In our first box, we got sweet corn on the cob, avocados, limes, giant slicing tomatoes and a beautiful head of butter lettuce, roots and all.


I also sprung for a weekly staples package, complete with organic, low-temp pasteurized milk from Mill King, fresh-baked multigrain bread and local free range eggs. Yes yes yes. Back.

We made a mixed grill with the corn and some tomatoes and peppers from our garden this weekend for dinner, served alongside a salad with red quinoa, feta, kalamata olives, red onions and some of that avocado, cubed. It was good stuff.

And, well, with such beautiful lettuce and tomatoes, I could think of only one thing: BLTs.

I am, of course, a vegetarian. But I live in a mixed household, and the omnivorous members of the family enjoy bacon. Naturally. Well, I remembered a staple from my childhood that I hadn’t had in a while — fried provolone. Yep, the cheese. If you fry deli slices of provolone on the stovetop, they bubble up, brown and become crispy, just like bacon, and they slide right out of the pan after you cool them slightly, with no need to add oil. Fried provolone is a fabulous substitute for bacon in a sandwich, and it did just the trick here. Plus I couldn’t resist adding some of that delicious avocado, because, let’s face it, just about everything is made better with a few slices of avocado. So, rather than a veggie BLT, perhaps we should call this sandwich a PLAT — provolone, lettuce, avocado and tomato.

I think sandwich recipes are kind of silly, since you basically just throw everything together according to your own taste, but here’s a good starting point for you, because this sandwich is just too delicious not to share!

Veggie BLTs (aka PLATs)
Recipe type: sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 2 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices sandwich bread (preferably freshly-made sourdough)
  • mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper
  • butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried with paper towels
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
  1. Put a nonstick griddle or frying pan over medium high heat and add the cheese slices in a single layer. Allow to fry, turning the pan to ensure even heating as necessary, until bubbly and golden brown on bottom. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and then tear into strips or large pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the bread and slather one side with mayo. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bread with lettuce leaves, and layer the tomato slices on top, using as many of each as suits your taste. Top with the provolone, and add avocado slices.
  4. Assemble, cut in half and chow down!


Summer Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta

Things have been crazy around here. All in the past two weeks, I got a new part-time consulting gig, hired a part-time nanny and launched myself back into the working world. Oh, and Amelia got two teeth. So that’s been fun!

The point is, we have all been feeling the changes. So, instead of sitting down for leftovers or something frozen for lunch yet again, I took my first “real” weekend seriously and slowed it down a bit. I made a delightfully simple summer farro salad using tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden.

tomato cucumber farro salad

We all enjoyed it — even Nora, once she settled down enough to sit down and actually try it. And she’s professing to like both tomatoes and cucumbers these days — music to my ears, and a darn good reason to have your own garden, if you ask me! She’s much more into food she gets to help harvest.

This salad is so easy to make, and it really showcases the flavor of the tomatoes and cucumbers — so use the freshest ones you can get! If you don’t grow your own, get thee to the farmer’s market.

Summer Farro Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups farro, uncooked
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ½ large cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta or goat cheese to finish
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
  2. Add the farro and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the farro is softened but still retains a bite, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain out any leftover stock and transfer the farro to a large bowl to cool to room temperature. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and red wine vinegar and toss to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper (along with more vinegar if needed). Serve topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese.


Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Jen and Alex Jackson for a profile in Edible Austin. The couple has since moved on to San Francisco (Bay Area friends, our loss is your gain!), but they were delightful to meet and chat with. I hope you’ll check out the profile here.

I was also privileged to recipe-test the flatbread that Jen and Alex shared with us for the magazine. That was the best part!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Edible Austin)

I did this when eggplant, peppers and tomatoes were still bounteous, as was that peppery summer arugula, but luckily Jen and Alex provided us with a few seasonal variations that would be perfect for right about now (butternut squash, with sage and caramelized leeks, plus a great sheep’s milk cheese, anyone?).

This version, though, with summer veggies, creamy goat cheese and eggs cracked right over the pizza, is to die for, and will definitely be back on our table next summertime!

Roasted Vegetable Flatbread with Goat Cheese (from Edible Austin)

I will tell you that, although the dough is a little time-consuming to make, it is hands-down the best I’ve made in my own kitchen (and I’ve tried quite a few!). Head over to Edible Austin to read the profile and grab the recipe, and I do hope you’ll try it out yourself!

Garden Update: Tomatoes… and Early Blight

We’ve had a rainy spring around here. While that’s lovely — and has resulted in a very happy, thriving garden — it has also led to what I am pretty sure is early blight on my tomato plants.

I was pleased as punch when the early tomatoes started rolling in — and they are beautiful and still coming — but the bushes themselves are not doing well. Leaves and branches started yellowing and dying, even as the tomatoes were still growing and thriving.

tomatoes 3 tomatoes copy

That’s when I pulled out my gardening books and realized that the moist soil resulting from our wet spring had probably led to a fungus, AKA early blight. Bummer. We removed the affected branches (as well as any leaves and branches within a foot of the soil) and have sprayed with an organic fungicide several times, but I’m not sure if it will be enough. Since I’ve never dealt with this before — years of gardening in California have made me soft, apparently — I waited until too late to start to treat it. Hopefully we’ll be able to save some of the plants, but I don’t know. Only time will tell.

Any tricks out there (above and beyond fungicide and trimming) from experienced gardeners? I’m all ears. Otherwise there will be no tomato canning this summer, and that just makes me sad.

20-Minute Homemade Tomato Soup

The days of soup-and-grilled cheese lunches are fading fast, with temps breaking into the 90s here in Austin (already — ugh!), but we may just have a few rainy days left in April. Last week, we had a few gray, chilly-ish days, and grilled cheese and tomato soup was just what the doctor ordered. However, we didn’t have any canned tomato soup on hand, so I decided to improvise. And you know what? I’m probably never going to bother to buy canned tomato soup again. This was creamy, delicious and almost as easy as the canned kind.

20-Minute Homemade Tomato Soup ~ Gourmet Veggie Mama

Sure, you could just open a can, but this is so much better and it only takes a few minutes more. This soup also freezes well, so next time we have a rainy day, all I’ll have to do is thaw it out. Golden.

Try it on your next rainy day!

5.0 from 1 reviews
20-Minute Homemade Tomato Soup
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 1 28-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup cream
  • parmesan rind (if available)
  • ½ tsp herbes de provence
  1. Combine the tomatoes and stock in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in the cream and toss in the parmesan rind (if using) and the herbes de provence, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, remove the rind, and blend using an immersion blender (or cool slightly and blend in a conventional blender).
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with a grilled cheese, and enjoy!



Of Tomatoes, Broccoli and First Freezes

Although it seems very odd to be writing about this now, with our windows thrown open to let in the breezy mid-60s weather, we recently had our first freeze here in Central Texas. For two straight nights, the mercury dipped below 32, and, though we did our best to cover them with blankets and shield them from the worst of it, all of our tomato plants bit the dust, their much-anticipated second wind in fall cruelly cut short.

dead tomatoes

That’s really sad.

I salvaged all the near-ripe tomatoes I could (yep, weather really swings that quickly here), but it’s finally time to rip out those plants and turn over the soil.

In every ending, though, there is a new beginning. I peeked into the leafy interior of my broccoli plants, “babies” I planted as seeds back in September, in the next bed over. They have spent the past three months growing tall and strong and leafing out, with no actual broccoli in sight… but look what I spied!

baby broccoli

Baby broccoli!

How had I managed not to notice these babies making their appearance? A couple of them were already ready for harvesting! So, of course, they had to make it onto our dinner table in some form that evening. Since I was short on time (and, let’s face it, creativity), I threw them into a stir fry with some carrots, crispy tofu and some other odds and ends.

As fresh as can be.

Fresh and easy.

I’m sure it was no more delicious than any other random weeknight stir fry I’ve thrown together over the past year or so, but knowing our very own home-grown broccoli was in there sure did make it feel that way!

Tomato Bread Pudding

I am loving these late-season tomatoes. It’s almost December and they are still coming! I can’t believe it — gotta love that it still gets into the 80s in Texas this late in the year sometimes. It almost makes up for the two-month stretch during the summer when it’s just too darn hot for tomatoes to grow… almost.

I ended up with a bunch of tomatoes harvested and sitting on my counter this week, so I dug through my recipes and decided to make an old favorite: Tomato Bread Pudding. What a lovely combination of tomatoes (which I always associate with summer) and winter comfort food!

tomato bread pudding

Hello delicious.

I ended up roasting the tomatoes and garlic a day ahead, and putting together the custard and bread portions to chill in the fridge the night before. Then I just poured the custard over the toasted bread, added the tomatoes, and baked it — voila! Dinner. I wouldn’t make it as a weeknight meal again, but, served with a simple side salad, it would make a lovely weekend meal.

Tomato Bread Pudding
  • 3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1½ tsp Herbes de Provence
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 head garlic, left whole
  • 1 large baguette, sliced and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups (9 oz) coarsely grated chilled fontina
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease a 9 x 13 pan or shallow casserole dish of similar size.
  2. Toss the tomatoes in a bowl with the herbes de Provence, 1 Tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, in a large baking pan.
  3. Cut off and discard ¼-inch from the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves, and then put it on a sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil. Wrap the garlic in foil and roast in the pan with the tomatoes until the tomatoes are browned but still juicy and the garlic is soft, 50 to 60 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and maintain temperature. Cool the garlic to warm, then squeeze the garlic out and use a garlic press or a sieve to purée.
  5. While the garlic cools, toss the bread cubes in a large bowl with 2 Tbs oil until coated, then spread out in a large pan and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  6. Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, garlic purée, 2 tsp salt, and 1½ tsp pepper. Stir in the cheeses.
  7. Transfer the bread to the prepared baking dish, then pour the egg mixture over the bread and add tomatoes, pushing some down between bread cubes.
  8. Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown in spots, 50 to 60 minutes.


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The Peaceful Mom

Cherry Tomato Pesto

Sad to say, we just may be coming to the tail-end of our beloved Sun Gold tomato plant’s bounty. However, inspired by In Her Chucks’ delicious-sounding recipe for cherry tomato pesto, I suggested we add it to the weekend lunch menu. The hubby beat me to the punch and Googled a recipe, so he gets chef credit here.

Regardless, it was delicious both ways we enjoyed it: first tossed with pasta and topped with additional parmesan for lunch, and then spread onto a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner the next night.

Pasta with cherry tomato pesto


If you are lucky enough to have late-season cherry tomatoes, I highly recommend it.

Cherry Tomato Pesto
  • ¾ cup basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • ½ cup walnut pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅛ cup olive oil
  1. Combine the basil leaves, parmesan, walnuts, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined.
  2. Add the salt and drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running, and mix until smooth.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings.


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White Bean Ragout with Toast

This is one of those recipes that is, as I am perhaps overly fond of saying, more than the sum of its parts. I mean, it’s basically beans on toast — not so interesting. But it is! The soffrito (a combination of onions and sweet peppers cooked slowly in olive oil with garlic and tomato paste) makes the whole thing, and the hubby, who is a huge fan of croutons in any context, went wild for the toasted Italian bread with parmesan.

White bean ragout


Now that the family is eating dinner together at an earlier hour, I am always looking for meals that can largely be made ahead. This fit the bill, since I was able to make the soffrito during Nora’s nap time, and everything else came together in just a few minutes at dinnertime.

Good thing — somebody was hungry!

Everyone loved it, especially the hubby, who couldn’t stop raving. Good thing there was enough for leftovers the next day! I served it with a salad, which included the very first baby kale from our garden, and the ragout included some of our Sun Gold tomatoes. Just about nothing makes me happier than using the fruits of our labor in the backyard garden in our meals!

White Bean Ragout with Toast
Adapted from a recipe published in Bon Appétit, May 2012

3 small onions, peeled and quartered
1 large or 2 small sweet peppers, stemmed, halved and seeded
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, divided
2 tsp tomato paste
4-6 1″-thick slices ciabatta or rustic Italian bread
8-10 Tbs finely grated Parmesan, divided
2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pulse the onions in a food processor until finely chopped but not puréed. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse the sweet peppers in the food processor until finely chopped but not puréed. Add the peppers to the bowl with the onions and mix well.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until the vegetables are completely softened, about 30 minutes. Mince or press 3 cloves of the garlic and add it and the tomato paste to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until tomato paste begins to turn deep red, about 3 minutes. Remove the soffritto from the heat and let cool completely, uncovered. Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°. Cut the remaining garlic clove in half and rub the bread slices with the cut sides. Sprinkle each slice of bread with Parmesan and place on the oven rack to toast, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the soffritto and beans in same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer until tender, 3-4 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbs Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the bread slices among bowls. Top with a generous scoop of the bean mixture and broth. Garnish with Parmesan and parsley.

The Peaceful Mom

Tomatoes in October!

Yep, that’s right — I’ve got tomatoes growing! Despite my initial plan to rip out my non-producing plants late in the summer, I am a softie. On the advice of a gardener friend, I just kept watering them, thinking they might spring back to life in the fall, once overnight temps cooled off. And they did! Finally, all of those blossoms are turning into little green tomato buds. Hooray!

The little plant that could!

Since it will be getting into the 80s and occasionally 90s here for a while, I think I have a good shot at getting some nice, ripe tomatoes out of those babies. I’ll cross my fingers that a least a few of the Cherokee Purples make it.

Of course, at the same time, I found a healthy crop of tomato hornworms invading my plants, but at least they had just gotten to the leaves. I picked them off and sprayed with Bt, which hopefully should keep them at bay.

The Sun Gold plant has never really quit — it just slowed down during the really hot part of August, and all of a sudden it is back, baby.

With a vengeance.

I picked all of those beauties this weekend, and there are still tons of ripening tomatoes on the plant.

Tomatoes in October! In Texas! I am a happy camper. Just think of all the fun summer/fall hybrid dishes I’ll be able to cook up!

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