Tomatoes, Basil and Pesto…Oh My!

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Jodi Balis is Capital Area Food Bank’s Resident Dietitian. Follow her on Twitter at @TheRedLentil

Summer is a time when fresh juicy tomatoes and basil beg to sing together in your mouth. When it comes to tomatoes or any summer vegetable, fresh means it will be more flavorful.

Whether the tomato and basil are grown in pots on a balcony, the backyard, purchased at a farmer’s market or a local grocery store, there are ways to incorporate the freshness of summer into budget-friendly meals.

One technique is to take a recipe concept – soup, salad or sandwich – and switch out ingredients as the season and budget allow.

This recipe takes the Simple Sammie featured in a May blog post and gives it a summer facelift by replacing the filling with tomatoes and pesto (herbs blended with oil and other fixins’).

Grilled or toasted whole grain bread brings together the contents of this delightful dish. The grilling dries out the bread, which helps absorb juices from the tomato. A shmear of pesto, some cheese and one BIG slice of tomato (or 2 slices of a medium sized tomato), makes this basic sandwich pop with flavor.

The whole grain bread, oil from the pesto and protein from the cheese make this dish very satisfying. See below for the recipe.

Ingredients
Serves 4
4 slices of whole grain bread
½ cup Pesto
4 slices of cheese (any kind)
1 BIG beefsteak tomato, sliced evenly, not too thick (or 2-3 medium sized tomatoes)

To Make Pesto:
1 cup basil
1 clove garlic
¼ cup sunflower seeds
3 Tablespoons oil
Salt to taste

Blend pesto ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Pesto should be smooth so add more oil if needed. If you do not have a blender or food processor, finely chop the basil and garlic. Place basil, garlic and sunflower seeds in a plastic bag, and with a rolling pin crush contents together. Place mixture in bowl and mix with oil and salt.

Finally, toast or grill bread and spread two tablespoons of pesto on each side. Add cheese, top with a tomato and enjoy!

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