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Eating Well: Tomato dishes long on freshness, flavor

Nothing beats a big, old, juicy tomato fresh from the garden vine this time of the year when homegrown crops are entering prime, peak time.

I typically plant Celebrities every year, a good all-around variety, excellent in salads, hot dishes and especially juices and salsa. If they have one drawback, it is the fact they can be way too juicy some years, a problem that only affects salsa-making, but one that can be remedied by pouring off some of the extra juice and canning it for hot dish, stews or chilies.

The Taste of Home magazine has always been an excellent source of recipes for me, and these tomato ones are some of the best I've tried. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Instead of a tossed salad, serve this attractive tomato and mozzarella slice salad, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with basil, that can also be picked fresh from your herb garden this time of year.

The sauce used to top the hot pasta is one of the freshest tasting you'll find anywhere, also prepared with garden tomatoes and basil and either creamy brie or camembert cheese. It has a very attractive presentation and tastes just as good cold. Add garlic toast and sherbet for a completely satisfying, meatless meal.

The easy dressing is a tasty way to top fresh tomatoes (add a little fresh garden lettuce and it only gets better); the BLT bites just melt in your mouth; and the wonderful salsa will have you begging for more. A tip on the latter, I don't hot pack my salsa. I just simmer it about an hour and then seal it in jars and lids that have both been prepped in extremely hot water.

Until next time, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

3 large tomatoes, sliced

8 oz. mozzarella, sliced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

¼ cup minced, fresh basil

On a large serving platter, alternate tomatoes and mozzarella slices. In a jar with lid, combine the oil, salt and pepper, and shake well. Drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle with basil.

Tomato Basil Linguini

1 pound Brie or Camembert cheese, rind removed and cut into small pieces

4 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 cup chopped, fresh basil

½ cup olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. white pepper

1 ½ pounds uncooked linguini

Shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large serving bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for up to 1 ½ hours. Cook linguini according to package directions. Drain. Toss with cheese mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tomatoes with Vinaigrette

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. seasoned salt

Pepper to taste

2 medium tomatoes cut into wedges

In a jar with tight-fitting lid, combine vinegar, oil, sugar, seasoned salt and pepper. Shake well. Serve over tomatoes.

BLT Bites

16 to 20 cherry tomatoes

1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled

½ cup real mayonnaise

1/3 cup chopped, green onions

3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp. snipped, fresh parsley

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Scoop out and discard pulp. Invert tomatoes on paper towel to drain. In a small bowl, combine the other ingredients and mix well. Spoon into tomatoes. Refrigerate for several hours

Wonderful Salsa

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained

2 ½ cups onions, chopped

1 ½ cups green peppers, chopped

1 cup jalapeno peppers, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. pepper

1/8 cup canning salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup vinegar

1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (12-oz) can tomato paste

Mix all together and bring to a slow boil for ten minutes. Seal in jars and cook in hot water bath for ten minutes.