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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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