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Can't get enough tomatoes right now? Virginia Willis is teaching a whole cooking class on them

Addie Broyles
June and July are the best months of the year for tomatoes, and if you need ideas for using them up, just ask Virginia Willis, who is teaching a tomato-themed cooking class at Central Market this week. [Addie Broyles/American-Statesman]

You know how much I love Virginia Willis' recipes.

She's the "Bon Appetit, Y'all" and "Basic to Brilliant, Y'all" author and TV host who, in recent years, has kept up a really nice blog on her website, and has been a speaker at the Texas Book Festival, South by Southwest, BookPeople and Central Market. We've published her lemon tart with a saltine cracker crust and a pan-seared zucchini recipe you can make all summer long.

Central Market on North Lamar is where she has taught cooking classes for nearly a decade, and she returns this week for a tomato-themed class on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., where she'll teach guest how to make a stone fruit and tomato salad, slow roasted halibut with tomatoes, risotto topped with tomato powder and green beans and tomatoes. Tickets are available online at until 1 p.m. on the day of the class.


Pan-Seared Summer Squash With Spiced Lemon Vinaigrette

Lemon Icebox Tart with Saltine Cracker Crust

Here you'll find another tomato-green bean recipe from her latest book, "Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover's Tour of the Global South" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), which came out last year.

Tomato-Ginger Green Beans

Green beans are also known as string beans or snap beans and are traditionally simmered for a long time with a hunk of some kind of pork — bacon, fatback, or hog jowl. My grandfather could eat a mountain of green beans and planted his garden accordingly. My grandmother would cook them in her pressure cooker, which would transform them from a bright green, crisp vegetable into soft-as-silk, army-green vegetable noodles. I remember the safety valve emitting little bursts of steam and the meaty, vegetal aroma that filled the air. There’s always going to be a place in my heart and at my table for those old-fashioned Southern recipes, even as I appreciate the influences on Southern food and cooking from different cuisines and cultures.

Tomatoes are actually a fruit, not a vegetable, and marry particularly well with spicy ginger in this dish. While most ginger is imported, the sandy soil and hot climate of the Southeast is conducive to growing ginger, and a number of farmers are adding both it and turmeric to their crop rotation. And no, it’s not a typo. I’m suggesting 1/4 cup chopped ginger in this Southeast Asian–inspired side dish.

— Virginia Willis

1 pound string beans (French-style haricots verts work especially well), stem ends trimmed

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh ginger

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

1/2 jalapeño, or to taste, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set it nearby. Line a plate with paper towels.

Add the beans to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well in a colander and then set the colander with the beans in the ice-water bath to set the color and stop the cooking, making sure the beans are submerged. Once chilled, transfer the beans to the prepared plate. Pat dry with paper towels and then transfer to a bowl.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the tomatoes and jalapeño and cook until warmed through, 5 minutes.

Add the cooked green beans and toss to coat and combine. Cook, tossing and stirring, until the green beans are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cilantro; taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. This dish is delicious served hot, warm, room temperature, or cold. If served cold, make sure to taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper, as chilling a dish dulls the seasoning. Serves 4 to 6.

— From "Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover's Tour of the Global South" by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)