Tomatoes: The Perfect Summer Food

Ripe Toamtoes
Now that summer is almost here and the tomato plants are growing in our garden, I am starting to think of all the dishes I’ll be able make and eat!. Of course you can get tomatoes year round, but they are never as good in the off-season. Typically they are grown in greenhouses and picked pre-ripe and shipped halfway across the country. They tend to be bland. Nothing is so disappointing as biting into a tasteless store bought tomato. Summer tomatoes that are locally grown, on the other hand, are bright, juicy, and delicious.

Tomatoes are Abundant

You should have no problem acquiring great tomatoes in the summer. For one, tomatoes are very easy to grow – which is what my husband and I do every summer. Most home and garden stores sell small tomato plants in the spring that you can transplant into your garden after the danger of the first frost is over. All you need is a space in your garden, or a very large pot, and you can grow tomatoes. All they require is a lot of water and a lot of sunlight and they will thrive. Before you know it, you will have beautiful, ripe tomatoes that you can pick right off the vine.

If you can’t grow them yourself, ripe local tomatoes are still easy to find! Farmers markets and vegetable stand should have plenty of locally grown tomatoes. Good grocery stores will often have locally grown tomatoes and other produce in-season.

They are Healthy

Tomatoes are one of the healthiest things you can eat! For one, they are rich in lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant. In addition to delivering the standard benefits of antioxidants, lycopene also helps prevent pancreatic cancer. Tomatoes also contain beta-carotene (Vitamin A) as well as vitamins C and E, and potassium.

They’re Delicious!

You can do so many things with a tomato. From cold tomato gazpacho to salads, from grilling them to canning them to make a sauce, there are nearly infinite possibilities.

Thinking it over I think my favorite tomato dish is the simple BLT. What can be better than toasted bread with yummy mayonnaise, crisp green lettuce, perfectly cooked bacon, and a juicy red homegrown tomato? Nothing much, in my opinion.

I also love eating plain tomato sandwiches with nothing more than bread, mayo, a little salt and a fresh cut tomato. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to make, and it’s one of the best ways to enjoy the simplicity of this amazing fruit. I also love an arugula, goat cheese, and tomato salad with just a little bit of salt and olive oil.

This summer I plan to try some new tomato dishes like stuffed tomatoes, and I also want to make some tomato sauce for winter so I can have those summer tomato memories.

Grilled Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops

Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic

Lamb is one our favorite meats, and it features heavily in both Mediterranean and certain Asian cuisines. It’s also less impactful on the environment than beef. When cooked properly, it’s tender, juicy, moist and delicious. However, overcooking it can result in a dry, and almost gamey tasting piece of meat.

This lamb dish is one our go-to dishes every the summer since its an easy and delicious weeknight meal. It has just a handful of simple, fresh ingredients that let the lamb shine. Mashing the garlic into a paste reduces the likelihood of it burning on the grill. Letting the rosemary char directly on the meat gives it an deep smoky and herbal flavor.

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Pesto Pizza with Tomato and Mozzarella

This is another and easy and delicious weeknight meal!  This can be made faster and more easily by purchasing pizza dough from the grocery store.  I prefer to make my own, but store bought dough is actually pretty good and easy to find.  You can also make your own pesto if you are so inclined – we will add a recipe for that soon.  When buying pesto, make sure to get it from the refrigerated section – the jarred pesto has a bunch of preservatives that affect the flavor.

You will get a better crust if you use a pizza stone, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have one.  If you enjoy making pizzas, a stone is an invaluable tool that will take your pies to the next level.  You can get a reasonably good one fairly cheap, and if you take care of it, it should last a very long time.

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Five Ingredient Grilled Souvlaki

5 Ingredient Greek Souvlaki

I’m always so excited for grilling season to start because it really opens up our repertoire of recipes.  So many great Mediterranean and Asian recipes are perfect for grilling. One prime example is Souvlaki – a delicious Greek grilled chicken dish.  This version is very simple – only 5 ingredients: chicken, garlic, oregano, olive oil, and lemon. Like most of our recipes, it’s fast, easy, and healthy!

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Sauteed Cod with Caper Butter and Lemon

Sauteed Cod with Caper Butter and Lemon

Incorporating fish into our diet has been a bit tough, especially since we live in a part of the country that’s nowhere near the ocean, and fresh fish is a bit tougher to come by.  However, one of the fish that is always readily available is cod. It also happens to be one of my favorites! It’s flaky, but meaty. The taste isn’t fishy or strong, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with.  This Mediterranean style fish dish is very simple to make, and absolutely delicious!

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Sloppy Jai (Indian Sloppy Joe)

The amazing restaurant Chai Pani in Asheville, NC serves Indian street food.  One of my favorite things to get is their Sloppy Jai. This is an Indian version of a sloppy Joe – made with ground lamb and Indian spices.

I tried to recreate this recipe at home!  It’s not exactly the same, but we feel it is a pretty good rendition.  I added pickled red onion to add a bit of tang and cut through the richness of the lamb.  Adding a little cayenne pepper or replacing the curry powder with Madras curry powder will add a little heat.  I serve these on brioche buns, but any buns will be fine.  This recipe is also super quick – it can be made in under 30 minutes for a great weeknight meal.

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Thai Red Curry with Shrimp

One of my favorite things to eat any time of year is my husband’s Thai Curry.  It’s rich, sweet, a little tangy – and all-around delicious.

The version below is a shrimp curry, but you can put in any flaky white fish instead of the shrimp, or you can add sliced chicken instead.  If you want a spicier curry, add some Thai chilies to the mix.  You can also make a green version of this curry – simply replace the red curry paste with green.

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Polenta with White Beans and Kale

This is one of our favorite recipes! We got the original recipe from Lidia Bastianich and modified it to make it easier and faster to prepare on a weeknight. Lidia uses dried beans and cooks them for nearly an hour, but we found that using canned beans is just as good and doesn’t require as much time or effort. This meal can be made in roughly 30 minutes – and it’s healthy and delicious!

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Even Better Hummus


The secret to our Even Better Hummus recipe is starting with dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight in water and baking soda. This method, used commonly in the Middle East, results in a much fluffier and creamier hummus than if you use canned chickpeas. This is a more time consuming recipe than ones using canned chickpeas, but the results are amazing.

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Turkish Lentils with Cauliflower Steaks


This is a very healthy lentil recipe that’s easy to make.  It’s a delicious, satisfying and – despite its simplicity – deep and complex in flavor from the variety of spices. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with vegetable stock or water or vegan by replacing the stock and omitting the yogurt.

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Superfood: Chickpeas

Have you ever wondered what that little beige bean towards the back of the salad bar that no one ever eat is? It is a Chickpea, also known as a Garbanzo bean. It is one of the oldest harvested legumes. According to Wikipedia, 7,500 year old traces of the bean have been found in the Middle East.

There are three different kinds of chickpeas: Desi, Bombay, and Kabuli. Desi are small and dark and have a rough covering. Desi chickpeas are mainly grown in India as well as Iran. Bombay Chickpeas are also dark and just a bit bigger than the Desi and are popular in India as well. Kabuli Chickpeas are lighter in color and have a softer covering then the Desi. This type of chickpea is grown in the Mediterranean. It is believed that the Kabuli was first grown in Kabul in Afghanistan The rare black chickpea is bigger and darker than the Desi and is only grown in Apulia which is in Southeast Italy.

Chickpeas have a lovely nutty taste and a buttery texture, and are a well known component in Italian, Greek, Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines. Chickpeas are used to make dishes such as hummus, falafel, and curries. They are used cold in tapas dishes in Spain, and with pasta in Italy. In Asian cuisine chickpeas are eaten as sweets or desserts in the Philippines.

You can buy chickpeas either dried or canned like other beans, but I have found that finding them dried is a little harder in small rural areas.

There are endless ways to use chickpeas in your daily diet. You can use them in salads, stews, and also ground into a flour. The flour can be used to coat vegetables for frying and also to make certain kinds of Mediterranean flatbreads such as Socca. Some kinds of chickpeas can be popped like Popcorn! Maybe something new to try on family movie night. My favorite uses for chickpeas are falafel and hummus.

Chickpeas are high in protein and iron. They are also a heart healthy food which can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) and your overall cholesterol if eaten as a regular part of your diet. Chickpeas can also aid in weight loss due to being high in fiber and having a low Glycemic Index which helps control blood sugar levels. Chickpeas are a great way to get the mineral manganese in to your diet. Manganese helps aid the body in energy production. According to, just one cup of garbanzo beans supplies 84.5% of the daily value for this mineral. states that one cup of cooked chickpeas contain 15 grams of protein, 13 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of fat and 0 grams of cholesterol.

So now that you know more about the chickpea and the advantages of adding it your diet, maybe you won’t skip over it the next time you visit your favorite salad bar. Also try the following recipes and you may find a new favorite food to share with your friends and family:

Super Simple Hummus
Even Better Hummus
Crispy Roasted Chick Peas