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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Lynn Nifoussi

When life hands you tomatoes...

710 U-pick is a small vegetable farm off of a long, prickly, country road in Florida. A sharp right at the faded sign puts you on the dirt road leading to the entrance. And I use that term loosely. You might be thinking big, red barn with rows of brightly-colored, ready-to-pick vegetable plants. I'm talking about a run-down out-building and a weedy field with barely discernible pathways. And it's heavenly.

I liken it to that of the heavens because its simple, rustic and during a six plus week quarantine, you can go there, pick fresh vegetables, breathe sweet air and not worry about getting close to anyone.

With ten dollars and 5 gallon bucket, you can pick your fill of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, mustard greens and more. On our last trip, my family and I came home with loads of small, red, juicy tomatoes of several varieties. I knew I was going to have to get creative in the kitchen to use them all up.

Being in quarantine changes your relationship to food in several ways. For one, you're eating more of it. The days have gotten longer and visits to the kitchen, more frequent. Meals are being drawn out and have gotten more elaborate with the passing weeks.

You also might have noticed that your food choices have become less than stellar in the last month or so as you look for comfort in the fridge and pantry. That's something we can deal with when this is all over!

But the most glaring change that I've noticed about my relationship with food is the value I put on it. It's hard to get! We've had to place orders days in advance to hopefully get a fraction of what we needed. We've had to pay surcharges and delivery fees and tips--and we're happy to do it, don't get me wrong, but it's changed the way in which I use, eat and view the food that I have in my home. Plus, everything that comes in needs to be cleaned and dried and put away -- groceries now take hours to purchase and put away. I could not bare to waste any of those tomatoes!

So, here's what I made*:

Fresh and Easy Salsa

As soon as we returned home from the farm, I cleaned and dried all of the tomatoes and then, I started chopping. I made a summer-style lunch for my family and envisioned us eating it in a field on a red and white checkered blanket with a few cows grazing in the distance. In reality, we ate it at our dining room table.

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

1 small onion (red or white), chopped

2 cloves garlic

3/4 cup fresh or canned corn (or frozen, thawed)

2 scallions, chopped

1 jalapeños, diced (optional)1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lime juice1 handful cilantro

Add half of the chopped tomatoes, the onion and garlic to a food processor. Pulse 4-5 times until you get nice small, liquid-y bits.

Transfer to a bowl. Stir in corn, scallions and jalapeños, if using. Add the cumin, sea salt, lime juice and cilantro and stir. Serve with tortilla chips.

Roasted Tomato Flatbread

The next evening, I decided that I would try my hand at roasted tomato flat breads. The kids weren't sick of tomatoes just yet, so I didn't have to disguise them.

But...I didn't have any yeast, so I found a yeast-free plant-based recipe for flatbread here.

For some reason, when I was mixing my dough, it remained wet and sticky instead of forming a dry ball like it should have. I was using a mixture of oat and wheat flour but I didn't think that was the issue. I added more flour to the mixture and was able to de-stick it from my fingers and press it into a flat oval. I then fried in a pan with oil.

I roasted a sheet-pan full of sliced tomatoes with olive oil, salt and bits of chopped garlic sprinkled throughout in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

When the tomatoes were done, I layered them on top of the prepared flatbread and let my kids pick whatever other toppings they wanted -- they went for olives and some sautéed mushrooms I had from earlier in the week.

They sprinkled parmesan cheese on top, too, but since I'm plant-based, I drizzled vegan mozzarella sauce that I whipped up from this recipe.

Tomato Basil Bisque

On the third night, I decided to make tomato soup. I still had loads of tomatoes but since the soup is blended, I figured my family would forget that they're once again, eating tomatoes.

I followed a recipe for Tomato Basil Bisque from one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli. My only lament was that I did not have any pumpernickel on hand for the croutons. I was not about to venture out into the great unknown that is the grocery store these days to get some.

Simple Marinara Sauce

My kids never turn their cheeks at pasta, so an easy marinara sauce was next on my list. This recipe is so simple, it's been in my brain for several years. I watched my mom make it a million times.

2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 more cups of tomatoes down!) or 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon mediterranean seasoning

1/4 cup non-dairy milk, unsweetened

1 tablespoon brown sugar

In a deep pot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil. This should take about 5 minutes or so and your kitchen should smell delicious.

Add in the tomatoes, salt and mediterranean seasoning. Stir. When the mixture starts to bubble, lower the heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the milk and brown sugar.

If you'd like a smooth sauce, blend in batches in a blender. Be sure to remove the plastic insert from the blender top before starting, do not overfill the blender and do not put your face over the blender either!

Serve over pasta!

Pistachio Guacamole

This is another one of Chloe Coscarelli's easy, delicious vegan recipes. You can find it here. It's a different take on guacamole and the pistachios add a hint of salt and a nutty texture to it. Make extra because it's gonna go fast and you'll want some for tomorrow night's tacos!

And there you have it. Five plant-based tomato recipes in 5 days! I'm glad to have taken on the challenge. Yes, I still have some tomatoes in my fridge--which is not a place that you're supposed to put tomatoes so please don't tell anyone. I wonder what I'll make tonight. By the way my kids are turning red and there's no shortage of lycopene in my house ;)

*all recipes can contain tree nuts and other allergens

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