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Salsa, Salsa, Salsa!

Posted by Mary Liz Wright -


No, I'm not talking about learning to dance! I'm talking tomatoes! Are you up to your elbows in tomatoes? Are they lining up on your kitchen counter like an army of red soldiers? Are you using baskets of tomatoes as doorstops? What are you going to do with all those tomatoes? Relax, here are a few easy recipes that you can make in a snap. Tomatoes are such a versatile food—you can cook them, bake them, put them in a pie—you can even eat them plain, unadorned, straight from the garden!

And, they are good for you! They are a super food loaded with lycopene, antioxidants, fiber and vitamins! The carotenoid antioxidants protect against prostate, digestive, and pancreatic cancers. Recent studies show that a diet rich in tomatoes lowers the levels of inflammatory stress markers noted in the development of cardiovascular disease. In addition to these health benefits, in a German study, participants who consumed tomato products 2 to 3 times per week showed less likelihood of sunburn when exposed to UV light.

Source: Penn State Extension

Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, refrigeration renders them tasteless and turns the flesh to mealy mush. Flavor and texture begin to deteriorate when the temperature drops below 54°F. Temperatures above 80°F cause tomatoes to spoil quickly. Store tomatoes at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, away from direct sunlight until ready to use (sunlight hastens ripening).

To ripen tomatoes, place them in a paper bag, stem end up. Punch several holes all around the bag and fold the top over. The bag will help to keep some of the natural ethylene gas in place, which aids in the ripening process.

Once cut, tomatoes should be stored in the refrigerator. Ideally cut tomatoes just prior to serving and use any leftovers in a cooked tomato recipe to avoid the mushy, tasteless result mentioned above.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

If you would like to preserve tomatoes, you can easily freeze them. Simply, wash core and cut into halves or quarters. Place in a freezer container or bag, leaving an inch of headspace. Use them in sauces and soups. The skin comes off easily as you thaw them by running cool water over the surface. Canning information can be found at

So, don't say "no thanks" when someone offers you a sack of tomatoes—embrace them—but not too hard—they will squish….

Corn and Tomato Sauté

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 pound tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or basil

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add corn and onion. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, tarragon (or basil), and salt.

University of Delaware Extension

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

4 tomatoes, halved horizontally

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450° F. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

University of Delaware Extension

Grilled Zucchini-Tomato Toastie(Serves 4)


1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise or softened cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper


1 medium zucchini
1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
8 slices bread or roll, preferably whole-grain
softened butter or oil

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.
3. Wash and cut both ends off zucchini. With a grater, shred zucchini into small pieces.
4. To assemble sandwiches, spread mayonnaise mixture evenly on 4 slices of bread. Top each slice with shredded zucchini, one tomato slice, and one slice of cheese. Top sandwiches with remaining bread slices.
5. Spread a small amount ofsoftened butteron both sides of each sandwich. Add to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes or until lightly brown. Flip sandwiches and grill on second side about 2 minutes or until lightly brown and cheese is melted.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 280 calories, 13g fat, 540mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 13g protein

Source: Kirby's Kitchen, University of Illinois Extension

Green Tomato Crisp(serves 9)

4 cups chopped green tomatoes
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour

Crumb Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled or quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp cooking oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl, stirring to coat all tomato pieces. Spread into a greased 9x9-inch baking dish.
3. Combine flour, oats, and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Drizzle oil over flour mixture and toss until crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.
4. Bake uncovered 30-45 minutes or until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 180 calories, 5g fat, 140mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2g protein

Source: Kirby's Kitchen, University of Illinois Extension

Fresh Garden Salsa

2 large ripe, red slicing tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1 green onion, top included, chopped
1 to 3 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, minced
Juice of lime
Salt to taste

Using a serrated knife, chop tomatoes. If using plum tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons water. In a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over the mixture and sprinkle with salt. Allow to rest 30 minutes before serving to allow salt to draw juice from the tomatoes. Stir again just before serving

University of Illinois Extension

Tomato Corn Pesto Pizza

3 plum or Roma tomatoes

¼ teaspoon onion powder teaspoon freshly ground or seasoned pepper

½ cup basil pesto 1 (14-16 ounce)

whole wheat or regular packaged pre-baked thin pizza crust

1 cup fresh corn kernels

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon honey

4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons fresh whole or torn basil leaves, (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Slice tomatoes into ¼ inch slices; place tomato slices on paper towels; sprinkle with onion powder and pepper; let stand 20 minutes. Spread pizza crust with pesto. Stir together corn kernels, Parmesan cheese and honey. Top pizza with corn mixture, tomato slices and mozzarella cheese. Place pizza directly on middle oven rack; bake approximately 12-14 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil leaves, if desired. Cut into 8 slices.

Nutritional Analysis(1 slice): 290 calories, 13 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 14 g protein

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