I am so ready for a luscious red tomato from my garden.  I have had a few Juliet grape tomatoes and some yellow cherry tomatoes; however, the larger varieties are a long way from ripening.  I would settle for a large yellow tomato, but they are nowhere near ripe, either. 

Bacon and tomatoes just go together.  One of the best treats of summer is a bacon-and-tomato sandwich (I use Miracle Whip on mine; no mayo, thanks) with lots of black pepper sprinkled over the tomato.  Sometimes I add lettuce, but I usually don’t bother.  A few years ago, I tried a recipe that sounded quite interesting: Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Soup.  I wondered about cooked lettuce, but shredded lettuce is placed in the bottom of each soup bowl, and the hot soup ladled over it.  It turned out to be very tasty.  Another dish that incorporates the previously mentioned flavors is Bacon and Tomato Spaghetti.  It is delicious and well worth the effort it takes to prepare it.

The smaller varieties of tomatoes seem to be much more prolific that the larger ones.  Although I love to eat them, I usually have plenty to share with other people.  One way to deal with an abundance is to make Rosemary-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.  My late hubby didn’t really care for cooked tomatoes unless they were mixed into something else; I wondered how he would react when I served these for lunch one day.  Surprisingly, he ate more than one helping, meaning he enjoyed their flavor.  For me, there was no question.

Besides being a good accompaniment to bacon, tomatoes also go well with pasta.  Two recipes that incorporate them are Greek Pasta Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette and Tomato and Basil Pasta Toss.  The Greek salad is another dish that makes use of an over-abundance of cherry tomatoes.

All this talk about the long-awaited ripening garden fruit is creating a craving.  I may have to go out and check my garden for the umpteenth time to see if there is any progress with the larger tomatoes.  I will most likely find some smaller ones ready to eat; I am sure that more than one of them will find their way to my tummy as soon as I can rinse them off.  Two of my grandchildren, Vivian and Elijah, are here to enjoy them, too. 

There is truly nothing like a garden-fresh tomato!

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Soup

8 Slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 celery ribs, chopped

3 cups prepared beef stock

5 ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped (enough to equal 1 quart)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried whole thyme

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Dash of hot sauce

2 cups shredded leaf lettuce

Seasoned croutons

Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven until crisp; remove bacon, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings in Dutch oven.  Drain bacon on paper towels; set aside.

Add onion and celery to drippings and sauté until transparent, stirring frequently; drain.

Add beef stock, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and seasonings; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes.

Place lettuce in bowls; ladle hot soup over lettuce.  Top with bacon and croutons.  Serve immediately.

Bacon & Tomato Spaghetti

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

3 cups fresh baby spinach

1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  Stir in spinach right before draining.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 2 tablespoons drippings. Sauté tomatoes in drippings until tender. Stir pasta mixture into skillet. Add the bacon, vinaigrette, salt and pepper; heat through. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 4 servings.

Rosemary-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2 pints cherry tomatoes (may use any small tomato, including Roma)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable cooking spray

Combine first 6 ingredients in a zip-top freezer bag.  Gently shake until tomatoes are well coated.  Transfer to an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. 

Bake at 425 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until tomatoes begin to burst.

Makes 4 servings.

Greek Pasta Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

12 ounces bite-sized pasta (your choice)

1 medium-sized sweet onion, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups diced cucumbers
1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives (or use black olives)
3/4 cup diced green peppers (optional)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Boil a large pot of salted water. Add pasta and cook it until al dente. Strain; transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.

In small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients except olive oil. Stream in oil while whisking. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Add red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, green peppers and feta cheese to pasta.

Pour dressing over pasta mixture; toss to combine.  Cover salad with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.   Toss pasta salad before serving; enjoy cold or at room temperature.

Tomato and Basil Pasta Toss

3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes in juice, undrained

1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil OR 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

8 ounces plain or tricolor rotini

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix tomatoes, basil, oil, and garlic.

Cook rotini as directed on package; drain.

Toss rotini with tomato mixture and grated topping.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.  Makes 6 servings.