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Tomato-rama

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A few years back, a friend memorably described my kitchen as a place that existed solely for mixing drinks and bathing pets. My pots and pans are always clean, but that doesn't mean I'm neat: I just have a deep-seated aversion to cooking.

However, I also have a pretty serious green thumb, and enjoy growing my own veggies. I suspect I'm not the only one struggling this week to eat up a jillion vine-fresh tomatoes -- and without so much as turning on the stove. Here are a few suggestions:

Something Like Pizza. Brown up a mess of toast, and slather on a layer of hummus. Slice up a tomato nice and thick, and lay it on top. Ideally, you have a bunch of cucumbers languishing in the garden, too. Slice one up thinly, lay on top of the tomatoes, and add salt and pepper.

Lazy Vegetarian BLT. Start with bread, then add Bac-os: They come in a shaker and aren't even meat. You could fry up some Yves or Smart soy versions (or real bacon, if that's your thing), but really, why bother? Most of the sandwich's juicy goodness comes from the tomato, so slice them super-thick.

Marinated Slices. In a shallow dish, mix up some olive oil and balsamic vinegar --enough to submerge sliced tomatoes. Soak the slices for 20 minutes. If you have onions, chop 'em up and throw them into the mix. Ditto for fresh herbs and the rest of that cucumber.

Italian Salad. Cut the tomatoes into big but manageable wedges -- quarter them, unless they are huge. Take a knob of your favorite fresh mozzarella and cut it into similarly sized pieces. Lay them on top of each other -- fresh basil makes an ideal border ingredient. Drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if you're so inclined.

Marinara Sauce. Peel and seed three pounds of parboiled tomatoes. Puree in a blender ... kidding! Did you know you can cook up gallons of sauce, freeze it and use it later? If you haven't the time or skills for canning, and can't possibly eat another tomato, your only other option may be to ...

Share. Besides gifting your friends and neighbors (who may have their own tomato overloads), consider dropping off excess produce at the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, near Kennywood (1 North Linden Street, Duquesne, 412-460-3663). You'll be putting those troublesome tomatoes to good use.

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