It's tomato season! Fresh, flavorful recipes featuring tomatoes

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It's tomato season! That means it's the best time of year to add color and flavor to your meals without spending a ton of money.

Deborah Schneider is the executive chef at SOL Mexican Cocina, and she showed 3TV's Javier Soto some tomato tips for fresh, easy dishes.

SOL is actually known for utilizing seasonally fresh fruits and vegetables in their recipes, and the restaurant features flavorful, fresh salsas that have become local favorites.

"We're very fresh-style Mexican," she says. "Coastal Mexican; a lot of seafood."

On Thursday, Schneider demonstrated how to do a similar salsa at home. It also finds fresh flavor in watermelon. "Not only tomatoes inspired me, but watermelon," she says.

with Basil, Mango & Serrano
Serves 6
Serve the Watermelon Gazpacho in chilled tumblers, garnished with a skewer of cooked shrimp, mango and lemon.

3 cups tomatoes cored, cut in half & seeded ( about 4)
2 cups seedless watermelon
½  green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2 pieces (divided use)
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups tomato juice
tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 basil leaves, minced
Optional:1 teaspoon minced Serrano chile, minced (with seeds)

To Serve
The remaining piece of green pepper, finely diced
½ small cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
¼ ripe mango, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
Tajine spice*
6 each - 6 inch wooden skewers
6 large cooked shrimp
6 large cubes of mango
1 lemon, cut into 8 pieces

1.    In a large blender, combine the tomatoes, watermelon, one piece of green pepper, and the garlic, olive oil and salt.  Puree until very smooth, and pour into a large pitcher or glass bowl.  Stir in the tomato juice, red wine vinegar, basil and optional chile.  Chill for several hours or overnight. Taste for salt and vinegar before proceeding; the gazpacho should taste like a delicious salad.
2.    Chill 6- twelve-ounce 'rocks' glasses. Rub the rims with one of the lemon pieces and coat the rims with some Tajine spice.
3.    Divide the diced green pepper, cucumber, mango and red onion among the glasses. Stir the chilled gazpacho well, and ladle carefully into the glasses. Garnish with a skewer of shrimp, mango and lemon.  Put a sprinkle of Tajine on the shrimp and mango just before serving.

*Available at Mexican markets and well-stocked supermarkets

SOL Cocina's Chipotle-Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 3 cups
This is one of the table salsas served with every meal at SOL. It has a pleasant smoky-spicy combination from the roasted tomatillos and chipotle chiles. It's a great dipping salsa for tostadas (SOL's version of corn chips), or your favorite tortilla chip. Aside from a good dipping salsa, it's suitable for adding to almost any dish. The charring process is an important step in this recipe; don't be afraid to let the vegetables blacken in spots and start to melt.
4 firm Roma tomatoes
5 medium tomatillos, husked and washed
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup canned chipotles in adobo (or more or less to taste)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 small white onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 bunch cilantro, rough-chopped
1-cup water, or more as needed
Splash of blanco tequila (optional)
Heat a heavy cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat. Line it with a sheet of aluminum foil and set the tomatoes, tomatillos and garlic directly on the foil. Leave the vegetables until they are well charred on one side, then turn and char on the other sides or until the vegetables begin to soften. The garlic will be done first; remove from pan, cool and peel. When the tomatoes and tomatillos are done, remove from the pan.
Place roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic and the remaining ingredients, except the water, in a food processor. Pulse until the salsa consistency is smooth, with some texture. Add water to thin if necessary. Taste for salt and chipotles. The salsa should be highly seasoned and medium-spicy. For added flavor, add a dash or two of blanco tequila to salsa once blended.

SOL Mexican Cocina
15323 N Scottsdale Rd #195
(480) 245-6708