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Use Those Late Cherry Tomatoes to Make Some Bruschetta

As the chilly fall weather descends upon us, we decided that today was perfect for making “lazy chili”–that is, opening a can of Chili Magic, adding some ground beef and tomatoes, and doctoring it up with peppers and spices to suit our tastes. Not having checked the garden in several days, we were afraid that our tomato season had ended and that we would have to rely on a can of diced tomatoes.  However, covered against the drizzle, Bill managed to pick enough tomatoes and peppers to throw into the mix.

Dieter, our 15-year-old German Shorthair Pointer, is thrilled that we still have some tomatoes hanging in there.  And when you are about a thousand years old in people years, those small joys are to be savored.  Dieter’s arthritis has gotten too bad for him to be able to go for a walk around the neighborhood.  Even if he is feeling particularly spunky, there is a good chance that he will just stop and refuse to move at some point of the walk, forcing us to carry his 55 lb self back home.  Therefore, when he feels like exploring, we’ve taken to allowing him to wander around in the part of the backyard that is usually off-limits to the dogs:  that mysterious area beyond the picket fence where the garden grows.

When he is back there, he can follow the scent of the bunnies and squirrels that are frequent visitors, mark his territory by the fence that separates us from the neighbor’s two dogs, and best of all…get up close and personal with THE MAGIC PLANTS. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, whenever we are in the garden he stands by the picket fence, drooling and waiting for us to pitch him some of his favorite–cherry tomatoes. Due to this, we now seem to have a baby cherry tomato plant growing from a crack in the patio where those tomatoes land and break open.

When Dieter encounters the wonder of the tomato plants himself, I have to watch him closely or he will eat himself sick, greedily pulling tomatoes off of the vine or devouring half-eaten ones that have been discarded on the ground by local critters.  Plus, tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, and dogs should not eat the leaves, stems or green tomatoes. So, I am careful about what goes into his mouth and down his gullet. But, oh, how feisty he gets! Tomatoes are to Dieters like catnip is to cats.  Like crack. So, I let him indulge his obsession for a bit before either gently guiding him away from the plants–or the more likely scenario–giving him an “airplane ride” back to the other side of the picket fence.

If you still have cherry tomatoes ripening in your garden, or even if you have to pick some up at the store, I’d like to suggest using some in this yummy bruschetta (broos-ket-a).  Unlike Dieter, I am not the world’s biggest cherry tomato fan, but I really love them on this.  It is a perfect appetizer or accompaniment to a hearty Italian meal, or served with a bowl of steamy soup for lunch on one of these brisk fall days.  Dieter dog, this one’s for you!

LIGHTLY COOKED CHERRY TOMATO AND RICOTTA BRUSCHETTA: http://www.herbivoracious.com/2011/08/lightly-cooked-cherry-tomato-and-ricotta-bruschetta-recipe.html

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Tomato-Topped Chicken, Zucchini and Ricotta Sandwiches

As we walk toward the garden, Dieter–our 15-year-old German Shorthair Pointer–waits by the picket fence, drool streaming from his jowls, quivering in anticipation, eyes intensely watching our every move. His favorite time of the year has arrived: tomato season. We pitch a few cherry tomatoes over the fence to him, and he scrambles to retrieve them, even ducking his creaky old body under the picnic table if one rolls underneath. He will also bob for them in his doggie pool or water dish, blowing water out of his nostrils and submerging his entire head if necessary.  He is obsessed with cherry tomatoes, and loves eating them more than anything in the world. Except for maybe bread. Or couches.

I am less enthusiastic about them, although I have aspired to like tomatoes for years. They always look so appealing, all red and juicy. But I never cared for them unless they were cooked–like in ketchup, spaghetti sauce or salsa. All my life, I have been a Tomato-Picker-Off-er. But each year, I would give them another try in hopes that my tastes would change.

Having a garden was my turning point. Since we have been planting and picking our own and experimenting with them in various recipes, I have progressed to being a Transitional Tomato Eater. I now enjoy them in uncooked salsa and on sandwiches and they no longer offend me in salads, but am not yet to the point where I can just eat a hunk of tomato. Or cherry tomatoes–Bill, Dieter and my sister can have those. My other dog, Tigger, and I have not yet developed a taste for cherry tomatoes. She will play with one for a while, nudging it with her nose, but when she finally bites into it, she winces and makes her patented “vegetable face” and spits it out. I do the same thing, minus the nose-nudging.

But, I am proud to say that I just happily downed a delicious BLT that Bill made us for lunch. I used to eat only BLCs (Bacon, Lettuce, and Cheese). Or, since lettuce doesn’t do much for me, sometimes I’d eat just a BC. Bacon and cheese are two of my Dietary Staples. For me to allow a tomato into that mix is truly a big step.  Perhaps an alien (or Dieter) has taken over my body!

Below is a recipe for another sandwich that is enhanced by juicy garden-fresh tomatoes. It has a tangy, melty sauce made from shredded zucchini, lemon zest, ricotta and parmesan cheese that really makes this sandwich unique. After we bought some herbed ciabatta bread at Nino Salvaggio’s, Bill rustled these up for dinner a couple of day ago using chicken tenderloins, but it could also be made with lunch meat, leftover chunks of rotisserie chicken or whatever else you have on hand. In fact, the “sauce” might also go well with ham, turkey, fish or crab cakes–or even as a baked dip with crackers.

TOMATO-TOPPED CHICKEN, ZUCCHINI AND RICOTTA SANDWICHES: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roasted-Chicken-Zucchini-and-Ricotta-Sandwiches-on-Focaccia-102870