Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 


Favorite Tomato Recipes from Homestead Gardens Staff

This is great fun with a plethora of tomatoes and recipes from our tomato cronies everywhere! The Washington Post has highlighted their Tomato Contest Winners just today. At Homestead Gardens, we are revving up for the really grande 3rd Annual Tomato Festival with cool music, samples, samples, samples, the Chili Cook Off and Salsa Competition!  I'll give a grilling demo w/ some of the top grilling trends this season which are ALREADY in The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up!



The Homestead Gardens staff favorite tomato recipes will be continued next week. Just look at the 1st series!

Old Fashioned Stewed Tomatoes a la Grandmother

Lisa Winters (supervisor of perennials) is a dear to share her grandmother’s tried and true stewed tomato gem. I love the way she is just chatting with us while giving the recipe. Lisa was concerned that people wouldn’t want to peel the tomatoes, but I think that is what makes it so special as it’s rarely found in restaurants these days.

“I think I've paired this down to a more manageable size. We used to make gallons of this and can it.  I still do sometimes but usually just can the tomatoes by themselves these days when I get the time. We used it from the jar for the basis of Italian dishes and soups.”

  • 14 - 16 large ripe tomatoes - about 20 large paste type tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic chopped

Remove skin, core and seeds from tomatoes. Cut in large chunks and put in large stock pot. Add all ingredients. Cook over med low heat for about 30 - 45 minutes.

We used to use Italian paste tomatoes. Other tomatoes will be more watery and will need to cook longer.

Remove the bay leaf and serve with fresh chopped parsley.

NOTE: I've also done this in a large crock pot on low for 8-9 hours.

Short cute video on peeling tomatoes


Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Gratin

Serves 8

Scrumptious and effortless, Katie Lantzas, Customer Service Manager at Homestead Garden’s Davidsonville store, got pretty excited when I asked for her favorite tomato recipe. You can see why!

  •  1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 pound baby Italian eggplant, pealed and sliced into rounds 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound (1 cup) coarsely crumbled goat or feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 425.

Brush a large oval baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange the tomato and eggplant slices in a single layer of overlapping concentric circles.

Scatter the thyme sprigs on top and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.

Cover with foil and bake until the eggplant is barely tender and the tomatoes have exuded their juices-about 30 minutes.

Uncover  the gratin and bake for about 25 minutes longer, or until the juices have evaporated and the vegetables are tender.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Serve warm or at room temperature.



Rita’s Smoked Tomato Salsa

makes about 2 1/2 cups

The ingredients list is very small and the recipe is simple as long as you have your stash of smoked tomatoes in the freezer. A little bit of those smokies goes a long way and I add them to sauces, soups, sandwiches year ‘round.

The salsa is in my cookbook gracing “Pulled Beer Can Chicken” which I will be showing at the Tomato Fest,

  • 1 pound-5-medium vine-ripened tomatoes, red, orange, or both
  • ½ pound smoked tomatoes
  • 1 fresh serrano or jalapeño pepper
  • ¼ medium onion, preferably white
  • ½ cup fresh finely chopped cilantro sprigs, optional
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Quarter and seed tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into ¼-inch dice and transfer to a bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, seed, and finely chop the pepper. Finely chop enough onion to measure ¼ cup. Finely chop the cilantro. Stir the chopped pepper, onion, cilantro, and garlic into tomatoes with the lime juice, salt, and pepper. Salsa may be made 1 hour ahead and kept at cool room temperature.

Rita’s Indoor Smoking Method

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, the winters are fairly mild (2010 being a major exception) so I keep my grill active, even through a bit of snow. It always has been my modus operandi to grill year-round. However, with my love of smoky grilled foods, I have also adapted some indoor smoking techniques to create that deep, rich, earthy character without creating a room full of smoke. I originally developed the process for the Stovetop Smoked Tomatoes I prepared on an Emeril Lagasse television show.

My stovetop smoking method is excellent for tomatoes and perfect for a number of veggies, poultry, or seafood. I use a simple wok set-up, a small rack (close to the size found in a toaster oven), heavy aluminum foil, and aromatics, such as green herbs, rice, and white sugar (brown sugar would burn too quickly), for adding scent to the smoke.

for the wok:

In a small bowl, create the smoking mixture by combining a small amount of rice, tea leaves, and sugar. Line the wok with a sheet of heavy foil (enough to fit inside the wok) and spray the foil with an olive oil cooking spray. Place the wok over high heat and add the smoking mixture, then add fruitwood leaves and sprigs; make sure not to make the pile too heavy because air circulation is necessary. Cover with a lid.

When small bursts of smoke begin to rise, place the rack holding the tomatoes or other food over the smoke source, cover with the foil—allow a small, gentle wisp of smoke to escape—and cook about 12 minutes on medium-high heat.

Remove the entire setup from the heat, but leave covered an additional 5 minutes or longer to infuse with smoky flavor.


"My All-time Favorite"

Jeff Opel, General Manager of Homestead Gardens' Landscape Division, has a purely direct approach. Here it is in his words.

"Being the lover of tomatoes, I can hardly wait for tomatoes sliced about a 1/4" thick with olive oil, balsamic vinegar poured over them. Some people will put a slice of fresh mozzarella and a piece of fresh basil on them. For me I like to sprinkle some Hawaiian red finishing salt, an freshly ground black pepper. I serve it at room temperature. On occasion I may sprinkle some dried basil if I have it".

"This simple recipe means summer has arrived."

I asked Jeff to explain how he came to know something as upscale as Hawaiian Red Sea Salt. "I have gotten into trying different types of finishing salt. That one is my favorite. I also found one from Bali that I like. And if I get my stuff together I plan on evaporating sea water from the Atlantic to make my own".


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