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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Tomatoes Are Ripe And Ready

By Sherrie Norris

Whether you eat them in a sandwich, in a salad, stuffed, fried, or stewed, vine-ripened tomatoes are delicious, anyway you slice them. Offering lots of nutritious value, one medium-sized tomato contributes 40% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, 20% of the required Vitamin A, some of which is in the form of beta-carotene, associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, iron and phosphates, as well as Vitamin B and fiber. They are also low in calories and sodium, and contain no fat or cholesterol.

The tomato is my all-time favorite garden goodie and thanks a special friends and neighbors, we’ve been able to enjoy them as we wait for ours to ripen.

There has been debate for years on the tomato: is it a fruit or is it a vegetable? Believe it or not, an 1893 Supreme Court ruled that because tomatoes are used as a vegetable rather than a fruit, they are legally considered to be a vegetable. I never had any doubt about it.

Things sure have changed in the last century, but if a decision had to be made on the best tasting vegetable, I can only imagine the tomato would still reign “supreme!”

There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, and they are the third most widely consumed vegetable in the United States, lagging close behind potatoes and lettuce. It is estimated that more than 85% of gardeners plant tomatoes, considered a staple in most kitchens, invaluable both fresh and in the can.


Sweet Tomato Casserole

6 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced, or 2 cans (14 ½ oz.) tomatoes, drained

1½ cups bread crumbs

¼ tsp. black pepper

½ stick butter, melted

¼ cup brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients together lightly in a baking dish. Bake uncovered in a 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes. Serves 6.


Tomato/Zucchini Bake

2 small zucchini, sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 medium tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1 cup croutons (or stuffing mix)

1 tsp. salt

Dash of pepper

1 tomato, cut in wedges

4-oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

In casserole, layer half of the zucchini, onion, sliced tomatoes and croutons. Season with ½ the salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Top with tomato wedges. Cover and bake in 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts. Enough for 6 servings.


Old Fashioned Tomato Jam

6 cups ripe tomatoes

6 cups sugar

1 tsp. ginger

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon rind

Pour boiling water over tomatoes, then dip them into cold water to loosen the peels. Peel and seed the tomatoes and cut them into chunks. Place them in a large pot and add the sugar, ginger, lemon juice and lemon rind. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat up and let tomatoes come to a rolling boil; turn heat back down and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often so the tomatoes will not stick. Store in sterile pint jars. (This recipe only makes a small amount – you will want to double it, at least.)


Tomato Onion Cheese Casserole

4 cups thinly sliced onions

4 medium tomatoes, peeled and sliced

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

½ tsp. dried basil leaves

6 slices process American cheese, cut in halves

½ cup packaged bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease 1½ quart casserole. In 1-inch boiling water in medium saucepan, cook onion, covered for 10 minutes; drain. In prepared casserole, layer in order half of tomatoes and onion. Sprinkle with half the salt, pepper and basil. Top with half the cheese. Repeat. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over top of cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Makes 6 servings.