Food Challenge: Tomatoes


If you have ever suffered through a mealy, flavorless tomato in the middle of winter, you know that tomatoes are best eaten in season. For the longest time, I just thought I didn’t like them at all. But then I started easing in — first in a fine dice over Mexican food, working up to firm Romas, then experiencing the full potential during a summer dinner in Tuscany. There’s something extra special about tomatoes in Italy, and I’m so thankful for the seven years we got to spend in Europe with the military. Now, we enjoy experimenting with the different varieties that we find in our local farmers’ markets.

You can enjoy the recipes below separately, or together as part of one meal. We’d love to see what you made. Just use the hashtag #IDfoodchallenge.

How to Prepare and Store Tomatoes
Cucumber Bruschetta

Cucumber Bruschetta

InDependent Original

Okay, okay. So this isn’t a true bruschetta because there is no toasted bread involved. Instead, a cucumber delivers the delicious tomato topping. And, this version takes on a Mexican twist, veering away from the traditional Italian. The result is a tasty, guilt-free appetizer. You could eat a whole tray of these at a party and be no worse off than had you eaten a bowlful of salad.


  • 2 garden cucumbers, sliced (you could use an English cucumber, just be aware that there will be a smaller base for your topping)

  • 2 cups Roma tomatoes, finely diced (any tomato variety would work, but I like to use Romas when I need a fine dice because they tend to be firmer.)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • small handful cilantro, finely chopped (optional)

  • balsamic glaze (Holds its shape when drizzling. I find mine at Trader Joe’s.)

  • Cotija cheese (salty, crumbly Mexican cheese with the consistency of feta)


  1. Slice the cucumbers into 1/4-inch rounds. Blot with a towel on both sides to remove extra moisture. Set out on serving platter.

  2. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cilantro (if using) in a medium bowl.

  3. Carefully spoon mixture onto cucumber slices.

  4. Drizzle balsamic glaze over the top.

  5. Top with a little bit of cheese.

Restaurant-Style Salsa

Restaurant-Style Salsa

InDependent Original

I grew up mostly in the West. At Mexican restaurants we would get a bowl of red salsa to accompany a warm bowl of chips. We would eat too many and not be hungry for our dinner. The salsa had just enough heat to give it some interest, but not so much that it would overwhelm guests with sensitive palates. Everything was finely chopped so you could get a well-rounded bite without offending chunks of onions or jalapeños. It was just right. I can tell when I’m far from home because the salsa is not just right. I came up with this recipe that finally tastes like what I would expect in a restaurant. I often serve it with chips when people come over. But, recently, I’ve started including it in my prep for the week to use on salads. I use diced tomatoes because they get me the texture I want, but you could of course use fresh.

  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup onion, roughly chopped

  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and halved, or more to taste

  • juice from one lime, or to taste

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, rinsed and patted dry

Place the onion, half of the jalapeño, lime juice, salt, and cilantro into the bowl of a food processor. No food processor? Just chop everything by hand. Pulse until everything is finely chopped, perhaps scraping down the sides of the bowl. Dump a third of the tomatoes into the processor bowl and pulse one or two times, just to slightly break down the tomatoes. Don’t pulse too much. You don’t want to end up with juice. Taste for heat at this point. Jalapeños vary wildly on the heat scale. Continue adding jalapeños, a half at a time, pulsing to chop, until you’ve reach the temperature perfect for you. Combine mixture in a bowl with the remaining diced tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Store in the refrigerator up to five days. I like to store it in a Mason jar.

Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce

Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce

via The Garden Grazer

This recipe takes taco night up a notch with seasoned beans and homemade sauce. Make it extra special with my Restaurant-Style Salsa above. This time of year, be sure to include ripe tomatoes as one of your toppings.