Bruschetta Aioli with Red Gold Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes are one of the best things about summer in Kentucky. They're the quintessential taste of a Kentucky summer. You can fry them, serve them in a salad, or make gazpacho with them. They're perfect. Except, you know, for the part where they're only in season for about six weeks at the end of the summer. And that's if you're lucky.

A few weeks ago, Red Gold offered to send me a few cans of their tomato blends as part of their #EasyAioli promotion. Red Gold brings the fresh taste of home-grown tomatoes year-round. Like their homegrown counterparts, Red Gold Tomatoes have so many uses. An easy way to amp up the flavor in your recipes is to combine Red Gold tomato blends with mayonnaise for a quick aioli.

Now I'd love to tell you that, every single time, I whip up my own mayo. This time,like Ina Garten, I decided that store-bought is just fine.

I started with a can of Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil, drained them, and added 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and 4 julienned basil leaves.I let this mixture hang out in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

I placed slices of thick-cut bacon in a large cast iron skillet, which I then put in a preheated 400 degree oven. I let the bacon cook for about 20 minutes, then made a sandwich on sourdough bread. It lent a bruschetta vibe to a classic BLT.

Check out Red Gold's Facebook page for more #EasyAioli recipes and a chance to win a $250 prize pack!

{I received Red Gold samples in consideration of this blog post. I was not compensated in any other manner.}

Enjoying the Season

Here in Kentucky, we're getting ready for the bumper crop of tomatoes that summer inevitably brings. Over in Arizona, Erin is reflecting on tomatoes, parenting, and spiritual growth. You can read more of Erin's unique blend of sassiness and faith on her blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

It’s fixin' to be June in Phoenix. Lord help us…

Some of you know that I’m kind of a snob about tomatoes. I mean, I LOVE tomatoes…But by "tomato," I do not mean those things that come out of a California hot house in January. That is NOT a tomato. A tomato comes from Mamaw’s garden. You go get it right before dinner, you rinse off the dirt, and you slice it up to top the burgers.

I can rhapsodize about a real tomato all day long—and the perfect BLT that I make when, on the rarest of occasions, I can lay hands on an actual tomato in the desert. My 4-year-old daughter loves tomatoes, too. In fact, she frequently asks for them at the grocery store. I usually say, "no, it’s not time for tomatoes." Which, 9/10ths of the time, is the dang truth.

So when she spied some on the kitchen counter recently, she said excitedly, "Is it TIME for tomatoes??!" And when I said yes, she proceeded to eat one whole, on the spot. “I want to eat tomatoes with things for like, a WEEK," she said. (As everyone knows, a WEEK, in 4-year-old time, is an eternity…)

Was it a real, Kentucky-grown, July garden tomato? Nah. But it was not too shabby for Arizona. It made a decent BLT.

Thing is, for all my vigilance in the seasonal produce department, I often forget that other things have seasons --and off-seasons-- too. Every year, in this May-to-June window, I say, “This is it. This is going to be the year when our summer worship attendance doesn’t fall off, and we will maintain all this momentum, and we will build programs, and nothing will slow down at all…And come August, it will be time to start TWO SERVICES!”

And yeah, every year, I make a liar of myself.

Thing is—it’s not such a bad thing to have times of year when things move a little more slowly. I think the key is to focus intention in these off-seasons. For instance--if we are planning a slower pace, an easier schedule, and a simpler rhythm during the summer months…what will we do with that time? What is our goal in slowing down? Are we doing less, so that the Spirit can do more in us? Or are we just getting lazy? Might seem like a fine line, but there is a difference.

The cluster of stories in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel—I call it the "Hear-do-be" trifecta—illustrates the seasonal truth of spiritual growth. The connected narratives of the Parable of the Sower, the Good Samaritan, and the Mary/Martha Moment, remind us that there is a right time for everything: there’s a time to hear God’s word and grow in it; there’s a time for DOING, and living out our faith in tangible ways; and, there’s a time to simply be…enjoying life in the presence of God and community.

It’s summer in Phoenix. It is a THOUSAND degrees in the shade. You can’t go outside. Lots of folks (smart folks) skip town, so regular church-as-we-know-it has to stop until September. Meanwhile, I am getting ready to move my family across the country…in September. Which is to say that NOTHING about my life feels seems to be in the normal rhythm right now.  Mentally, I am everywhere (Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, and, somehow, the beach) while also being exactly nowhere.

So my goal, in this season of soul-crushing heat, and soul-challenging transition, is to enjoy that which is in season. To be fully present the life that is, right now. Because this season—even with its climate-related misery and life-related ambiguity—is a gift. The slower pace and the sacred space remind us that the Spirit’s timing is present, and right, in everything..

Even tomatoes.

Easy Tomato Recipes

Kentucky's tomato crops are finally here! 

Now, if you're like me, you're thrilled to have all those farm-fresh tomatoes, but you're always looking for new ways to use them. I'm fortunate enough to have family with serious vegetable gardens, so I have access to all the tomatoes I could possibly use. I certainly try to cram a year's worth of high-level lycopene benefits into the weeks of the tomato harvest! My go-to-recipes are Caprese salad, gazpacho and salsa.

 Caprese Salad is so easy, fresh, and delicious that you don't even need a recipe. Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and even fresher basil garnished with a little salt and pepper and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This year, I plan to get a little fancier, and make individual Caprese bites by slicing cherry tomatoes and stuffing with a mozzarella pearl and a basil leaf. The key to a good Caprese is great basil -- my basil hasn't been thriving this year, so I'm a little concerned about how my Caprese will turn out. 

Gazpacho is only worth eating when the tomatoes are fresh. I start with about twenty medium tomatoes; it's nice to add in a couple of different varietals here, for depth of flavor. I juice about half of the tomatoes, straining out all of the pulp and seeds. The others are submerged in boiling water for about 20 seconds, then peeled and pureed in the food processor. I then peel and dice a couple of cucumbers, a few garlic cloves, and about half a red onion and puree them in the food processor. I combine all this with a drizzle of olive oil and a couple spoonfuls of red wine vinegar, then season with some kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. I chill the soup for an hour or so and garnish with fresh basil. 

As for salsa, I'm trying desperately to find a great recipe. I kind of throw tomatoes, peppers, onions, lime juice and cilantro together when serving fresh salsa, but really want to hone my recipe. I've made a few stabs at canning salsa, but it just freaks me out. I'm a little afraid of canning, and all of the recipes I've found are emphatic about keeping acid contents at a certain percentage for stability of preservation. And, I don't like the flavor that boiling the cans lends to the tomatoes. All the awesome freshness is gone! I hope to work on my salsa again this year; I really love the idea of opening a can of homemade salsa without having to worry about all the preservatives and salt. In fact, I'd love to do the same with marinara. 

 This year, I hope to add tomato pie to the repertoire. What's your favorite tomato recipe?