(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 17, 2010. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
As might be expected, this left me with an overabundance of cherry tomatoes. I'm all for popping cherries straight as an afternoon snack, but even I get a wee bit tired of them after several bowls full. So. . .I began experimenting with recipes to find another use for my bumper crop.
The first recipe I'd like to share takes its inspiration from my favorite appetizer, bruschetta. In this case the bread is baked with the tomatoes, and it is served over pasta. This recipe takes only about 30 to 45 minutes from harvest to table, and makes a lovely presentation if you have cherries of many different colors, as I do. I tried it with chopped larger tomatoes, as well, and it was tasty, but much more seedy and liquidy than the cherry version. Perhaps seeding the tomatoes first would remedy that. Regardless, my family agreed that it is best when made with those sweet, petite fruits. This is a simple dish, with the sweetness of the tomatoes nicely contrasted to the acidity of the vinegar, the pungency of the cheeses, and the kick of garlic.
Baked Cherry Tomato Pasta Topping
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 cups cherry tomatoes, assorted colors
2 slices bread or one French roll
3 tablespooons freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3 tablespoons feta or bleu cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, or 1 tablespoon fresh basil and oregano, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta: fusilli (spiral), farfalle (bow-tie), or mostaccoli (small tubes)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix one clove minced garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and brush on bread. I like to use the "heels" or ends of a loaf of hearty French or multigrain bread, because of the texture. A small baguette, split lengthwise, would also work. Place directly on oven rack and toast for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, drizzle 9 x 13-inch pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cut each cherry tomato in half, and arrange them, cut side up, to cover the bottom of the pan. Tear or crumble the toasted bread (or chop in food processor, for finer crumbs). Mix bread with cheeses, herbs, and remaining two cloves minced or pressed garlic; spread mixture over cut surfaces of tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and final tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake on top rack of oven for 20 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and the topping begins to brown. The aroma will draw the entire family to the kitchen. While tomatoes are baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, and toss lightly with the baked tomato mixture. Garnish with sprig of fresh basil, if desired. I serve this dish with crusty bread and a green salad.
Multi-colored cherry tomatoes also make a fantastically attractive salsa, and the sweetness of these cherries, as opposed to salad or beefsteak styles, gives a great balance to the spicy flavors. This salsa has become a hit among some of my friends, and I often take it to get-togethers to share, as it makes a large batch. This is a great dish to make in July and August, when I can find almost all of the ingredients in my own back yard! Plan ahead, as this dish is best if you let the flavors meld for several hours before serving. In a pinch, lacking fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter, you can substitute three 14.5-ounce cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes for the fresh cherry tomatoes. The texture will be softer, but the flavor is still good!
Colorful Confetti Salsa
4 cups assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ears mature sweet corn, husked and cleaned
1 to 2 jalepenos or other hot pepper, chopped, to taste
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
bottled hot sauce, if desired
salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pan of water to a boil; blanch corn for 3 minutes, then immediately transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Cut kernels from cob, cutting as close to cob as possible to get full kernels. (Alternately, in the winter, I use one small can of shoepeg corn). Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Taste, and add additional hot peppers or hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Be conservative, as it will taste spicier after a few hours, when the flavors have fully developed. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
Since it makes such a large batch, and I often take it to parties and meetings, I frequently divide it into two batches, and make one mild and one spicy. We grow habanero peppers in our garden, so one batch is often too hot for me to handle! My husband enjoys the burn, however, so I try to humor him. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or thin, lightly toasted slices of garlic bread.
For a different twist, add one small peeled and chopped cucumber, and a single-serve can of tomato juice or Spicy V-8 juice, and it can pass as gazpacho, a spicy, cold soup for a sizzling hot day!
Do you have any favorite recipes specifically for cherry tomatoes? I'd love to be inspired by you!