Tomatoes are good! Tomatoes are great! – Cary Downtown Farmers Market | Cary, North Carolina

Tomatoes are good! Tomatoes are great!

Tomatoes are good! Tomatoes are great!

Chef’s Corner

by Mitch Samples


Tomatoes are good, tomatoes are great.  Red, green, or yellow; put ‘em on your plate.


Confession: as a youth I honestly did not like raw tomatoes.  I would like to say that is because I was never exposed to good fresh, home grown tomatoes but that’s not the truth.  I was lucky enough to have grandparents on a farm who grew a big garden for the house as well as the crops they used for market.  My mother was an avid vegetable gardener.  So, what was the problem?  I don’t know, texture probably.  Today, 40 odd years later I absolutely love them.  Therefore, tomorrow we will be sampling fresh tomatoes in their simplest form.  Perhaps a little olive oil, maybe some salt or balsamic vinegar.  A slice of bread and a smear of fresh goat cheese.  For me now, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Stop by the Chef’s Corner tomorrow and taste a bit of summer.

What was the point of my confession?  Tastes change, sometimes kids don’t like something now that they will grow up to love and adore.  Don’t force them to eat something they can’t stand, maybe it’s not the food maybe it’s a texture.  Believe me, it can be a nonstarter.

Show your love and see if you can find a way to prepare the item in a way everyone can enjoy.  Notice in the paragraph above, I specified raw tomatoes.  I absolutely adored tomato sauce and many other cooked tomato items.  My mom found a way to get that goodness in me, and it was just one of the ways she showed her love.  Also, it meant I didn’t always have negative memories of tomatoes.  Don’t force it.  Find a way to enjoy the day together.  To get you started on that path I offer the recipes below.

p.s. I still don’t like bananas.

Tomato Basil Brushchetta

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Recipe: Tomato Basil Brushchetta
8 oz local tomatoes, diced
2 oz fresh basil chiffonade
1 tsp dry basil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

French bread Crostinis



  • Place all ingredients, except crostinis, into a bowl and mix together well.
  • Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, overnight is best.

For the crostinis:

  • Slice the French bread into ¼ to half inch rounds, brush with olive oil and toast in oven or broiler.
  • Serve the tomato mixture on top of the crostinis and garnish with a little extra fresh basil.


Basic Tomato Sauce

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Recipe: Basic Tomato Sauce
3 Tbs olive oil
1 large or 2 small Bermuda onions, diced
2 chopped celery stalks with leaves, diced
1 carrot, fine dice
6 to 8 fresh market tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups canned tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat saucepan and add the oil.
  • When the oil has warmed, add the next 3 ingredients and sauté on medium high for about 3-4 minutes. We are just sweating the vegetables here, not browning them.
  • Add the tomatoes and continue to cook gently (low), uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
  • It helps to mash them occasionally with a fork, and make sure they don’t become too dry.
  • Puree the cooked mix with an immersion blender in the pan or with a blender.
  • You may run it through a fine strainer for an elegant touch, but I prefer to just puree and leave the goodness in.
  • Season to taste.


  • Hot pan, cold oil is a good mantra to remember.  It helps keep things from sticking.
  • If you puree this mixture while hot and are using only red tomatoes it will turn an orangish color.  Allow the mix to cool before pureeing to keep it red.
  • There is some confusion about Bermuda onions, and many people believe them to be red onions.  They are not. They are a sweet white onion with a low Sulphur and high water content. I see many of these at the market. Vidalias are a sweet onion.


I love this recipe for its versatility. It is just basic tomato sauce and can be seasoned, thickened, creamed, or added to anyway you like. Use butter instead of olive oil to make a richer sauce. Also, you will notice I have not called for Extra Virgin Olive Oil here. It’s not necessary. Use it if you like, but sometimes the base flavors of a basic olive oil here actually bring a lot to the party.


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