Through the season, Chef Staci Pederson of Yankton Hy-Vee shares preparation tips and her recipes using local garden produce as it ripens.

“A fresh tomato sandwich. Nothing better — sliced white bread, mayonnaise or butter to spread, and big slices of tomato with salt and pepper,” said Chef Staci Pederson.

She hopes to be eating her first homegrown tomato about now. At her garden, she has three varieties of heirloom tomatoes — red, yellow and purple. That’s what she’s waiting to try.

She says that a ripe tomato will smell like her grandmother’s garden.  If you have to pull hard to harvest a ripe tomato, then it’s likely the tomato isn’t quite ripe. According to Chef Staci, she looks for a firm, yet a little soft tomato with uniform color.

“Mix your colors of tomato in your salad; they all bring their flavor profile to the party. Some are more acidic and others juicier,” she said.

Her tomato tart uses simple tomato slices. She slices a variety of tomatoes and places them on a cookie sheet with paper towels to absorb a little juice. Then she shingles (places overlapping rows of) slices on puff or pie pastry with olive oil, salt and pepper. She cooks the tomato tart in the oven according to pastry directions until crust is ready. She suggests serving the tart with a green salad.

Sometimes tomatoes become ripe when we are most busy.

“I cook all day. A trick I use at home when I know I won’t get to processing the tomatoes is to rinse and then drain tomatoes on a cookie sheet with paper towels. I put the sheet of tomatoes in the freezer. When frozen, I keep them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag. To make a sauce, I thaw frozen tomatoes in the microwave. The skins come right off,” she said.

One of her favorite meals contains tomatoes from the garden, corn on the cob, a fresh herb salad and maybe a hamburger from the grill.

“Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers — there’s a saying in the food business: ‘What grows together, goes together.’ Regional garden produce that ripens at the same time, automatically goes together with the wine and the animals that grow there,” she said.

Chef Staci finishes fresh salad preparation with a simple dressing.

“A squeeze of lemon or lime and olive oil—the acidity of the citrus brings up sweetness and the oil makes it stick together. It’s all you need with fresh produce.

Corn, Cucumber And Tomato Salad

4 fresh ears of Corn

2 Tablespoons fresh Lime Juice

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons snipped fresh Mint

½ teaspoon granulated Sugar

½ teaspoon Kosher Salt

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

1 small Red Onion, quartered and thinly sliced

2 garden Tomatoes, diced

1 cup chopped Cucumber

½ fresh Jalapeno Pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs. Cook fresh corn, covered, in a small amount of boiling, salted water for four minutes or until tender. Cool slightly.

For dressing, combine lime juice, olive oil, mint, sugar, salt and white pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

Stir together corn, onion tomatoes, cucumber and jalapeno pepper in a large bowl. Add dressing; stir to coat. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours. Serves 6.

Grilled Marinated Shrimp With Corn And Tomato Salad

1 ½ pound Marinated Shrimp, shell on, or Scallops

 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Preheat grill to medium heat. Toss shrimp with olive oil and grill 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove from grill and serve in shell with melted lemon butter as a dipping sauce, grilled bread and Corn and Tomato Salad. Serves 4.

Corn and Tomato Salad

4 ears Corn, cleaned and cut off cob

2 large Tomatoes, diced

1 bunch Green Onions, sliced thin

1 Tablespoons fresh Thyme, chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped

1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Stir together all ingredients, season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Staci Pederson is the chef at Hy-Vee, 2100 Broadway, Yankton (605) 665-3412. Thanks to Chef Staci for sharing her recipes in this series.

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