Posted by: littlebitofparadise | August 24, 2012

Friday Favorites: Garden Variety

Our garden is producing enough tomatoes this month to open up our own Farmer’s Market. (Well not quite, but almost!) For those who are harvesting the last bumper crops of summer veggies this month, here are some of my family’s favorite recipes – some old some new – for using up the backyard garden harvest.

1. Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce

This is my Mom’s recipe for marinara. She didn’t invent it, but she’s the one who makes it in the summertime, freezes it so our family can enjoy in the Fall, and reserves just enough in the freezer to pull out for Christmas Eve dinner’s pasta course. Yum-mo is what Rachel Ray would have to say about this one.

4 lbs fresh tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped (I use less)
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
4 sprigs parsley
1 t – 1 T sugar (optional)

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet or heavy saucepan.

2. Add onion, garlic, basil, salt.  Saute until onion is tender, approx 5 mins.

3. Add tomatoes, parsley, heat to boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered, about 2 hours, stirring often, until sauce thickens.  You can add sugar here if you want to; taste it first.

4. Remove parsley.  You can puree it in the blender here (carefully, hot!!) if you want a smooth texture.  An immersion blender would be even easier.

5. Serve over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.  Can be frozen up to 6 months.

*To peel tomatoes:  Cut a shallow X into the end of each tomato.  Place in boiling water for 20 seconds, then remove and plunge into ice water bath.  The skins will peel right off!

Variations: You can use any combination of tomatoes; add or substitute oregano, rosemary, or other herbs (dried Italian herbs would work as well); puree it in the blender to finish it off, or leave it with more texture.   Some people add tomato paste to make it thicker; I do not.  Some people think it makes the sauce bitter.  You could change it up by adding roasted red peppers, or a splash of red wine.

2. Tyler Florence’s Roasted Tomato Soup

This recipe from Food Network Chef (and Greenville South Carolina native, for all my South Cackalacky readers) will change your idea of tomato soup forever. It’s bursting with flavor. Makes a great summer dinner paired with grilled cheese or paninis. It also freezes well.


2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of fresh heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

2 small yellow onions, sliced

Vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, optional

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 quart chicken stock

2 bay leaves

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, optional

3/4 cup heavy cream, optional


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes and a splash of heavy cream.

3. Homemade Pickles

For those garden cukes that harvest faster than you can eat them, here’s a wonderful recipe for homemade pickles. I’ve been raving to friends and relatives about the homemade pickles my friend Christine shared with me from her garden harvest, and many of you have been begging for the recipe. So here it is!

Christine dropped off a couple jars of her homemade pickles at my house a few weeks ago, and I shamelessly admit that I ate a whole jar of them by myself. In one day. I couldn’t help it, they were that dang good.

I’m not sure where the recipe originated, but in my kitchen, this recipe is called “Christine’s Garden Pickles”:

Refrigerator Dill Pickles – 4 qt jars

2 qts water
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/3 c salt (we find this to be a little salty and tweak it)
1 c sugar
sprigs fresh dill
8 garlic cloves
6 large cucs
40 black peppercorns
4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (we don’t always use these)

Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a quick boil.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Place 2-3 sprigs of dill, 10 peppercorns and 1 tsp pepper flakes and 2 cloves of garlic in bottom of each jar.  Top with cucs.  Pour cooled brine over the cucs and top w more dill sprigs.  Seal lid and allow to “pickle” in fridge 3 days.

4. Grilled Pizza Margherita

This is my sister Anne’s recipe, and while it takes some trial and error to get the crust just right, it’s an amazing twist on the ultimate summer pizza.

Corn Break Pizza Crust:

1 ½ cups warm water

1 package active yeast

1 TB olive oil

2 cups cornmeal

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups bread flour

Preheat grill to medium heat. Pour water in large bowl and sprinkle yeast in. Stir. Add everything except flour and mix well. Gradually add flour – dough should be soft but not sticky. Knead dough approx. 10 mins. Place in greased bowl; cover with saran wrap. Let rise for 1 hour. Punch dough and roll out into four 10-inch or two 12-inch crusts.

Pizza Toppings:

2 TB olive oil

1 tsp minced garlic

½ cup fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces

1 TB chopped oregano (fresh)

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

8-10 ripe plum tomatoes sliced (or whatever you’re harvesting from your garden)

8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese

In large bowl combine oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium. Oil the grill. Place pizza dough on grill – make sure the dough is not too thin. Cook until toasted on the bottom, 1-3 minutes.

Remove from grill and place toppings on the grilled side of the crust. Top with tomatoes, mozzarella and herb mixture. Return pizza to the grill, and cook until crusts are crisp and cheese has melted, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from grill, let cool, and enjoy with your favorite bottle of wine!

Serves 4.

Happy Friday y’all!



  1. We like Checca it’s olive oil, tomatoes, salt, garlic and basil. Put them in a food processor and pulse pour over hot pasta! Fresh mozzarella goes well with it.

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