At least tomato season isn’t canceled.


It’s been a long summer of thinking about vacations and events and parties that didn’t happen as planned. I’d been particularly looking forward to this year’s Summer Olympics because I was traveling in Sweden during the last one and, no matter how hard we tried to circumnavigate NBC’s media lockdown, we didn’t get to watch a single competition.


Some 20,000 people were looking forward to participating in Spain’s La Tomatina, the epic tomato fight that takes place in the small town of Buñol every August, but like the Austin City Limits Music Festival and now the Texas State Fair, it, too, is a casualty of COVID-19.


On my first trip to Europe in 2003, I was one of the revelers standing knee-deep in smashed tomatoes, participating in a tradition that dates back to the 1940s that now makes me smile and shake my head any time I think about it. I knew it would be a messy affair, but I couldn’t have comprehended exactly how much fun you could have squishing tomatoes on total strangers who immediately felt like friends. The sweet smell of that red pond at my feet is as vivid in my memory as it was on the scene.


The festival had taken place nearly every year since its origin in 1944 or 1945, except when Francisco Franco tried to ban the festival during the 1950s. The city eventually won the right to continue the celebration of one of the area’s most important crops, but this year, because of concerns about a resurgence of the coronavirus in Spain, La Tomatina has been called off.


Back at home in Austin, where I’m stuck dreaming about one day being able to take an international trip again, this heat and the bounty of SunGolds, Romas, beefsteaks and Better Boys showing up at farmers markets make me want to have my own little tomato party.


On my weekly livestream video on the Austin360 Facebook page, I invited Johnson’s Backyard Garden marketing manager Ada Broussard to join me to talk about all things tomatoes: how they grow them, what to do with them, how to preserve them and why we love them.


Having canned tomatoes and tomato sauce in jars, Broussard now prefers to freeze the cooked marinara sauce or stewed crushed tomatoes (cooked with garlic and onions) in freezer-safe plastic bags. She portions out just a few cups in each bag and freezes them on a flat surface so the bags are easily stackable. (And don’t forget to label them, she says. It’s a sure thing you won’t remember exactly what is in each bag later this year.)


Broussard, who is also a co-founder of the cooking class company Club Homemade, shared a tip on gently roasting tomatoes in a good deal of olive oil, along with some fresh herbs, which makes a tomato confit that also freezes well and is a perfect accompaniment to bread, feta or halloumi cheese or as a simple sauce for pasta.


We both had seen Austin photographer Mackenzie Smith Kelley (@mackannecheese) post on July Fourth about making a tangy tomato shrub, a mixture of vinegar, sugar and tomatoes that makes a wonderful summertime tonic.


Kelley wasn’t the only person thinking about tomato drinks that week. Sonya Cote of Eden East (@edeneastaustin) had shared that she is working on a tomato wine that she hopes to serve a year from now, which reminded Broussard of another boozy tomato favorite: micheladas.


Broussard, who also makes homemade bloody mary mix from fresh tomatoes, says she seasons pureed tomatoes with Worcestershire, pepper and Tabasco and then freezes the mixture in ice cubes. When she’s craving a michelada, she’ll pour a beer into a tall glass and then add the michelada ice cubes, which slowly melt and mix into the drink.


We saw lots of other tomato dishes on the #Austin360Cooks hashtag on Instagram, from a tomato-laced frittata from Marissa Fisk (@modernmomchef) to a BLT salad from Elizabeth Lindemann (@abowlofdelicious), who posted the recipe on her food blog, bowlofdelicious.com. Brett Spangler (@beespangley) drizzled a tomato and burrata salad with balsamic vinegar and a few basil leaves.


Over the past few weeks, Nelly Ramirez (@thereal_aneelee) finished her own Tomatolandia project, using tomatoes from Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s annual bulk sale to make tomato sauce, salsa, canned crushed tomatoes and even tomato powder using the leftover skins.


Maggie Perkins (@frommaggiesfarm), another JBG tomato fan, put up dozens of jars of tomatoes this summer, and instead of making tomato powder, she turned her skins into tomato chips that she says rival kale chips.


Don’t forget about gazpacho, made with plenty of cucumber to balance the acid in the tomatoes and topped with crunchy homemade croutons. That’s my favorite way to use fresh tomatoes because they don’t require any cooking, and I leave out the bread when I blend it initially so that it will last a little longer in the fridge.


For this week’s food section, I rounded up a handful of other tomato recipes to help you throw your own tomato party this summer, including two personal favorites from Broussard: Yotam Ottolenghi’s okra and tomato stir-fry and a tomato salad with a Parmesan-heavy vinaigrette.


Enjoying pounds of tomatoes this month might not exactly replace the summertime memories you were hoping to make on that cruise or at that music festival, but they’ll be memories nonetheless. I hope you can take the time to enjoy them with all your senses.


Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Thyme Tart


This tart from "One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine and Sound — All Year Round" by Jordan Zucker can be adapted to any seasonal produce. In this case, she uses tomatoes and mushrooms, but you also could use figs or summer squash instead of the tomatoes.


— Addie Broyles


For the crust:


2 cups all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon kosher salt


1/2 cup olive oil, chilled in the freezer for 1 hour (it should be thick but pourable and still loose enough to stir)


6 tablespoons ice water


For the filling:


2 tablespoons olive oil


4 medium shallots, sliced into 1/2-inch disks


1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme


Salt and pepper


1 pound mixed mushrooms


4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch disks and lightly salted


1/2 cup goat cheese


To make the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a large food processor. Add the semi-frozen olive oil and blend. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time with the motor running until a dough has formed. You’re looking for a solid dough that holds together but isn’t too sticky. You may need to adjust the amount of water due to factors like weather, altitude, social media algorithms, etc. (Maybe not the algorithms, but it’s easy to blame them for things. Who’s with me?) Remove the dough from the processor and form it into a big disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.


To make the tart: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix well. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium-high heat in the same skillet and add the mushrooms. Sauté for about 10 minutes, or until they’ve absorbed the oil and released their juices. Season with salt and black pepper.


Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Remove the dough from the fridge and place in the pan. Using your fingers, push the dough around and up the edge of the pan until it covers the entire pan evenly.


Distribute the goat cheese evenly on the bottom of the tart crust, then add the shallots in an even layer. Top with the mushrooms in an even layer, then arrange the Roma tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with salt. Bake the tart in the oven for 30 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.


— From "One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round" by Jordan Zucker (Home Sauce Publications, $44)


Charred Okra With Tomato, Garlic and Preserved Lemon


This method of cooking with tomato, onion and garlic is popular in Jerusalem, writes "Jerusalem" author Yotam Ottolenghi, and it’s a good way to combine two summer vegetables. Try to get smaller okra from Middle Eastern or Asian markets so they are more tender, he says.


— Addie Broyles


2 cups baby or very small okra


2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed


4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


3 tablespoons preserved lemon skin, cut into thin slices


3 small tomatoes, cut into wedges or halved cherry tomatoes


1/2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley


1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro


1 tablespoon lemon juice


Maldon sea salt and black pepper


Trim the okra, cutting stems just above the pod so as to not expose the seeds. Heat a large, heavy-bottom skillet or frying pan over high heat and let it get scorching hot.


Without adding any oil to the pan, place half of the okra in the skillet and dry cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 4 minutes. The okra pods should have the occasional dark blister. Repeat with remaining okra.


Return all the charred okra to the pan, add the olive oil, garlic and preserved lemon. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan. Reduce the heat and then add the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of water, chopped herbs, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Gently stir so the tomatoes don’t break apart, and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the tomatoes warm through. Transfer to serving dish. Drizzle with more olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Serves 4 to 6.


— Adapted from "Jerusalem: A Cookbook" by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi


Heirloom Tomato Salad With Parmesan Vinaigrette


Buy a variety of tomatoes for this salad, says author Soa Davies, who wrote a whole cookbook about tomatoes for the Short Stack series. For the dressing, she uses Parmesan, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and red onions to add plenty of zip.


— Addie Broyles


4 tablespoons red wine vinegar


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1 teaspoon finely minced garlic


1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese


Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper


6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, assorted sizes and varieties


1 pint cherry tomatoes


1/4 cup marjoram leaves, roughly chopped


1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves


1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion, soaked in ice water and drained


Mix together the vinegar, lemon juice and garlic in a medium bowl and then add Parmesan and black pepper, to taste, up to 1 teaspoon. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt. (The dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. Store in the refrigerator.)


Cut the larger tomatoes in half crosswise, then into 1/4-inch slices; cut smaller tomatoes into wedges; and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with the herbs, red onion and the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.


— Adapted from "Tomatoes" by Soa Davies (Short Stack, $14)


Tomato Puree


One thing I've learned about making things from scratch is that they don't just taste like the real thing; they taste better. I want you never to want to purchase shop-bought tomato puree ever again.


— Max La Manna


10 pounds ripe red tomato, halved


2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking and sealing


1/3 cup agave, maple syrup or sugar


2 bay leaves


1 tablespoon salt


Place tomatoes in a large stockpot and add the olive oil. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer, cover and cook until softened and the juices have been released — about 40 to 45 minutes.


Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Press the tomatoes through a fine sieve or mouli to remove the skins and seeds, collecting the puree in a bowl. Return the puree to the stockpot; add the agave, bay leaves and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat with the lid off and reduce until thick, stirring often, for about 50 to 60 minutes.


Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Grease a baking dish with about a teaspoon of oil, then spread the tomato puree out on a thin and evenly distributed layer. Bake the puree for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until it becomes thick, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. If you want a thinner puree, don’t bake as long.


Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Transfer the puree to sealed sterilized jars and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. Keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.


— From "More Plants Less Waste: Plant-Based Recipes and Zero Waste Life Hacks with Purpose" by Max La Manna (Quercus, $30)


Homemade Ketchup


Don't waste your tomatoes! Instead, make that tomato puree and then try making your own ketchup. It's a great way to use up leftover tomatoes, ditch plastic and impress your friends and family at the same time.


— Max La Manna


1 cup medjool dates, pitted


3/4 cup boiling water


2/3 cup homemade tomato purée


4 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar


1 teaspoon salt


2 teaspoons onion powder


1 teaspoon garlic powder


1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional)


Pinch of ground allspice


Olive oil, to store


Soak dates in the boiling water to soften them. Put all the other ingredients (except the oil) into a blender and blend, then slowly pour in your dates one at a time, as well as their soaking water. You may not need all the water, so slowly gauge the consistency until it’s to your liking. Blend until smooth.


Pour the ketchup into a glass jar and drizzle over 1 teaspoon of olive oil to prevent the top from discoloring. Seal properly and store in your fridge for up to 4 weeks. If you don’t finish it in 4 weeks, store the remainder in a suitable container in your freezer. Makes about 1 2/3 cups.


— From "More Plants Less Waste: Plant-Based Recipes and Zero Waste Life Hacks with Purpose" by Max La Manna (Quercus, $30)


Blistered Cherry Tomatoes With Kale and Cannellini Beans


Simple, whole foods really shine in this nourishing dish. I love making this breakfast on mornings when I’m strapped for time and craving something savory. Cherry tomatoes and bite-sized kale pieces are lightly seasoned, blistered and fried in olive oil, then mixed in with cannellini beans to pack in the fiber to keep you full longer. For an extra punch of flavor, use a small clove of garlic in place of the garlic powder. Use a vegan Parmesan cheese to keep this dish plant-based, if desired.


— Sarah Nevins


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half


3 cups kale, stems removed and roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces


1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


Sea salt


Parmesan cheese, for garnish


Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cherry tomatoes. Let the tomatoes sit for a couple of minutes untouched so they begin to blister.


Stir in the kale, garlic powder and beans. Cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a fitted lid for 2 minutes to soften the kale.


Taste and season with salt as you see fit. Divide between bowls, top with Parmesan and enjoy warm.


— From "Effortless Vegan: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes With Easy Instructions, Few Ingredients and Minimal Cleanup" by Sarah Nevins (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)