The Pick-Up: CSA Challenge: Holy tomatoes!

Tomato pie
(David Mallette, For The Baltimore Sun)

"So, it looks like Farmer Emma is offering some extra tomatoes this week at the CSA," I said to my husband. "Can you grab a few while you are picking up our share at Moon Valley?"

I kind of wish I had read Emma Williams' email to our CSA group a little more closely. In addition to our quart of tomatoes (and loads of vegetables), she was offering everyone another five pounds of tomatoes. I didn't realize how many that was until they were sitting in a colander on the kitchen countertop. And we had another two quarts already on the counter.


With a busy weekend ahead of me, all those lycopene-rich, vitamin-packed fruits were giving me a little bit of an anxiety attack. What would I do with them all?

I visualized pasta and tomatoes, and suddenly remembered a dish that my husband and I used to eat at least once a week during the summers but that I'd forgotten about when our cookbooks were packed away for a year during a move.


The recipe came from my daughter's fifth-grade class cookbook, which someone had thought to put together back in 2004. It's for Mediterranean pasta and is from the Coppola family in Dallas. I make it exactly as the recipe specifies, although the Copollas seemed to prefer angel hair pasta and I've made it with lots of different kinds. I forgot to put the olives in this time, and it was still delicious.

On the shelf next to the school cookbook was another homespun cookbook — one with recipes from my Texas book club. Wait, I thought. Wasn't my friend Tami known for making some sort of Italian sauce that she cooked for three or four days? Would that recipe help me with my tomato crisis?

No such luck. No tomato sauce recipe from Tami. But I did find a winner: Dawn's recipe for tomato pie.

Dawn is the kind of person who wears a dress and a big hat to pick up her kid at summer camp in East Texas. She does everything with style, and I felt confident her recipe would be tasty — and it was.

"Fresh tomatoes, cheese and crust — how much better can summer be?" my husband asked as we worked our way through a few hot cocktail-hour slices.

So that was good. But I still had more tomatoes. I turned to "WomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbook" (Rodale, 2008), which focuses on 40 ingredients that promote heart health. Tomatoes are one of them. The book reminded me that cooking tomatoes "increases the bioavailablity of lycopene, particularly when you use olive oil." Bingo.

I found a recipe for spinach linguine with fresh tomatoes and pork. I'm not a big pork fan, but the ingredients called for lots of tomatoes. And a cup of fresh basil, which I had from the CSA. I added a few more tomatoes to the recipe and cut back on the garlic.

And yes, it was a good meal, too.

Mediterranean pasta

Serves 2 hungry people

4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped


3 tablespoons sliced black olives

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 garlic clove, minced

About 9 ounces pasta

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine first eight ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Let stand about 10 minutes.

Make the pasta according to package directions.

Serve the mixture over bowls of the pasta and sprinkle with the feta cheese.

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