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Grate some tomatoes into a great side dish

Recipe: Healthy grains are the base for flexible pilaf recipe

tomato half on a grater
Grate tomato halves for the cooking sauce for multigrain pilaf. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Three tomatoes
The rich flavor of these Cherokee Carbon tomatoes was perfect
for the pilaf.

August is when I start looking for other ways to use my tomato bounty. I've had several BLTs and caprese salads, made cobbler, and I've doused grilled salmon in tomato-basil vinaigrette. I'll get to my usual tomato canning later this month.

In between, I've found a great way to use tomatoes in an easy side dish. This multigrain combo can easily be adapted to whatever flavor profile you want, to accompany tacos, chicken tikka or beef kabobs. A large-hole cheese grater is the only fancy equipment you need, and you don't have to strain out the seeds -- they become part of the texture of the dish.

Note that the grains can be varied, but I would keep basmati or jasmine rice as the main one. The others are up to you and your pantry contents.

Four-Grain and Tomato Pilaf
Adapted from "You Say Tomato" by Joanne Weir
Serves 6

four grains
Basmati rice, top, and from left, millet, freekah and quinoa
blend went into my version of this pilaf.


3 medium ripe red tomatoes

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

3/4 cup basmati or jasmine rice

1/4 cup quinoa or quinoa blend

1/4 cup millet or bulgur wheat

1/4 cup freekah or amaranth

1/2 teaspoon or more fresh thyme, plus more for garnish, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 or 2 shallots, minced

Optional addition: 4-ounce can chopped chilies, drained

1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bowl with pilaf
The finished dish, here garnished with thyme.


Cut the tomatoes in half. Cup each tomato half in your hand, cut side out, and, using the large holes of a grater, grate the tomato into a bowl. Discard or compost the skins.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and your selection of other grains (the four together should total 1 1/2 cups), and the thyme or cumin and shallots. Stir until the grains are coated and hot, 1 to 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to high and add the stock, 1 1/2 cups water, the tomato juice and pulp, the chilies if using, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the grains are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.

Fluff with a fork. Correct the seasonings. Serve, garnished with more thyme or garnish of your choice.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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