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The Versatile Tomato

September 10, 1997|MARIE SIMMONS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Simmons is the author of "Fresh & Fast" (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

At my house, we like our fresh, locally grown tomatoes sprinkled with coarse salt, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and served with fresh basil from our herb garden. But it's always fun to discover new ways to prepare them.

One alternative is to cube them for a salad made with cooked cauliflower florets. This salad is good plain, but you could also add capers or chopped green or black olives.

On the other hand, there may be nothing quite like a cooked fresh tomato. Warming a tomato shows off its natural sweetness, perhaps more than a cold or room-temperature salad. This recipe for sauteed tomatoes with melted mozzarella cheese is a perfect example of tomatoes at their best.

MOM'S CAULIFLOWER AND TOMATO SALAD

1/2 head cauliflower, stem removed, broken into small florets (about 3 cups)

1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Salt, pepper

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

Green or black olives, chopped, optional

Steam cauliflower until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain well.

Combine cauliflower, tomatoes and parsley in serving bowl. Add olive oil, vinegar, oregano and salt and pepper to taste and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with capers or olives if desired. Serve at room temperature.

4 servings. Each serving:

153 calories; 137 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.09 grams fiber.

SAUTEED TOMATOES WITH MELTED MOZZARELLA

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

8 (1/2-inch) slices tomato

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons slivered basil

8 thin slices mozzarella cheese

This can make a meal when toasted bread is added to the pan juices and the warm cheese-topped tomatoes are served on top of the tomato juice-soaked toast.

Heat olive oil and garlic in large skillet over medium-low heat until garlic is sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir to blend. Add tomato slices and turn to coat with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with basil and cheese slices. Cover and cook until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Transfer to platter and serve warm.

4 servings. Each serving:

113 calories; 132 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.41 gram fiber.

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