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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 March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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