The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing. I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less! You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.
Last week I posted a recipe for zucchini pizza casserole since a lot of home gardeners are overrun with it right now. I’d like to continue the garden recipes with tomatoes and basil. These basil-tomato bites are very simple, but they are packed with flavor.
Being the frugal cook that I am, I rarely ever buy fresh herbs at the store—they are expensive and you have very little time to use them before they go bad. Herbs are very easy to grow outside or indoors. I usually grow basil, garlic chives, and cilantro (coriander). At the end of the growing season, I let the basil and cilantro flower and go to seed. When the plants and seeds are all dried out, I scratch them into to soil. They sit dormant until the next spring, when they start to sprout up when the weather gets warmer.
Another way to get the most out of your herbs is to use the flowers. Sometimes my herb garden gets away from me and flowers more than I want it to. I simply snip off the flowers and as many leaves as I need and use them together. Using herb flowers by themselves is also a great way to garnish your dishes.
As far as tomatoes go, there is absolutely no comparison between homegrown and store-bought. Most grocery store tomatoes are picked while they are still green and exposed to ethylene gas to get them to turn red (which actually ends up looking orangey).
These tomato bites can be served fresh or baked. I like them better fresh; my husband prefers them baked. Either way, they are an easy, delicious, healthy dish. I could very easily be satisfied with a batch of them for lunch. Baked, they make a great appetizer or side-dish.
If you want a richer, more filling variation, you can put a slice of mozzarella cheese on each one, between the tomato and the basil. And I’m not talking about the low-moisture mozzarella that you shred for pizza. I’m talking about real, soft mozzarella cheese. Mmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it! Unfortunately, it’s expensive so I don’t buy it.
- Tomatoes, sliced
- Olive oil
- Garlic powder
- Mozzarella cheese, sliced (optional)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh basil, chiffonade or torn
If baking, preheat oven to 400. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Place tomatoes in single layer on paper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.
If using, place a slice of mozzarella on each tomato. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pepper. Top each tomato with a few pieces of basil.
Can be served at this point or baked for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the basil so as not to burn it. Can serve on crostini.