This month our blog post comes from one of our backyard gardeners, Alex Panas. Alex is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk, Wheeling Heritage’s online publication that highlights all of the positive things happening in Wheeling. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband, four sweet cats and four spunky backyard chickens. Today, Alex is bringing us simple recipes to utilize garden grown tomatoes. 



Whether you are a new or seasoned backyard gardener, it seems that tomatoes are a staple in many zone 6 garden plans. With the exception of extremely cold conditions, tomatoes are quite resilient and don’t require a lot of space. This makes them the perfect starter vegetable for smaller gardens and can even be grown in containers if you don’t have a yard.

While it’s fun to watch these plants blossom over the season, there inevitably comes a time when it feels like you are drowning in tomatoes! What’s a gardener to do? Here are a few of my favorite tried and true ways for using up all of those homegrown tomatoes.

Spicy Tomato Vodka Soda

I found this refreshing summer cocktail recipe in one of my favorite recipe books – Drinking with Chickens: Free-Range Cocktails for the Happiest Hour by Kate E Richards. You’ll need to start by making a tomato-infused vodka a few days in advance, but trust me when I say it’s worth it! If you love simple cocktails made with fresh ingredients, then you’ll definitely want to give this one a try!


For the tomato-infused vodka

-2 cups vodka (I like Tito’s)

-6 cherry tomatoes, halved

-½ jalapeno pepper

For the cocktail

-½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

-3 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced

-5 thin slices of jalapeno pepper




  1. Prepare the tomato-infused vodka by combining all ingredients in a mason jar. Store in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Shaking daily. Strain before using. 
  2. To prepare your cocktail, combine 2 ounces of your infused vodka with lemon juice, tomatoes, and jalapeno in a tall glass. Add ice, top with seltzer, and enjoy! Garnish with some flowering tomato buds if you want to get extra fancy!

Tik Tok Famous Pasta

If you haven’t hopped on the Tik Tok bandwagon yet, it’s a treasure trove of fun, tasty recipes. Earlier this year, a baked feta pasta recipe on the video app took the internet by storm. The recipe became so popular that it was even hard to find blocks of feta at the grocery store to make this dish. Like the previous recipe, it’s really easy to make this dish your own based on what you have on hand. Below is the recipe I’ve used successfully in my kitchen:


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 block Greek feta cheese
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 12 ounces pasta of your choice, cooked to package instructions (I like Banza chickpea penne pasta for this recipe)


  1. Cook pasta to package instructions and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. 
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Place your block of feta in the center of a 9×9 baking dish. Surround it with tomatoes and garlic. Sprinkle with your spices and generously drizzle everything with olive oil. Toss tomatoes to make sure they are well-coated. 
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the garlic is soft and the tomatoes have burst.
  5. Mash the feta and tomatoes with a fork until evenly combined. If desired, add a couple of tablespoons of past water at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. If you prefer a smoother consistency, you can transfer your sauce to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree it into a creamy sauce.
  6. Mix the sauce with pasta. Season with extra salt and pepper, if needed. 

Notes: This is another recipe that can be modified to your liking. You can easily swap out feta cheese for other soft cheeses, such as goat cheese or Boursin cheese. If you like a milder-tasting cheese, I’m sure a cream cheese would work well for this recipe too. You could also add fresh herbs, shallots, or onions to your sauce to make it your own. 

Pan Con Tomate

Move over avocado toast, there’s a new bougie breakfast item on the menu! This traditional dish from Spain is one of my favorite ways to use up a juicy garden tomato – and you probably already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen. This dish is as simple as it comes, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. Pan con tomate is full of fresh summer flavor and perfect for a quick, no-cook breakfast.


-1 ripe tomato (any variety will do!)

-1 slice of your favorite bread (I like ciabatta or a slice of salty bread from Sarah’s on Main)

-1 clove of garlic

-drizzle of olive oil

-pinch of flaky sea salt


  1. Slice your bread and pop it in the toaster or oven.
  2. While the bread toasts, cut your tomato in half. Using a box grater, rub the faces of your tomato over the large holes of the grater. Discard skin. 
  3. Quickly strain the tomato pulp using a fine mesh strainer and return it to a bowl. 
  4. Into the bowl with your tomato pulp, grate a little more than ½ of the garlic clove and stir to combine.
  5. Once your toast is ready, place on a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Rub your toast with the remaining clove of garlic and top with your tomato pulp. Sprinkle with some flaky sea salt and enjoy!

Notes: It’s so easy to make this recipe your own! Add in chopped fresh herbs from your garden, swap out the oil for some herbed compound butter, or serve with an egg on the side for a well-balanced meal. The possibilities are endless!

Fresh Garden Salsa

I’m sure that anyone who has been gardening for a while has their own go-to salsa recipe; here’s mine! It’s nothing fancy and I usually eyeball the ingredients based on what’s in my kitchen (and garden!) at the time, but it always goes quickly in my home and is a great way to use up all of my fresh vegetables before it’s too late.


  • ~5 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (If you like it spicy, leave the seeds. If you prefer a milder salsa, remove the seeds from your pepper before chopping or omit completely).
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • Drizzle of olive oil


  1. Chop all of your vegetables (listen to a fun podcast or some relaxing music during this step!)
  2. Add all of your vegetables to a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil and mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings based on your preference.

I hope these recipes have inspired you to try something new in your kitchen this summer. While following a recipe is great, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this – but NOTHING beats a fresh tomato straight from the garden. Don’t forget to enjoy at least a few fresh-sliced tomatoes this season with the perfect sprinkle of flaky sea salt!

Greek Style Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Here’s another no-cook summer recipe that I make weekly. It’s the perfect fresh side dish to accompany grilled meats or a heavier pasta dish (such as the Tik Tok pasta above!)


  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (any variety)
  • 1 cup cucumbers, chopped
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • ½ cup feta cheese, freshly crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • Sea salt, to taste


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, oregano and sea salt until combined. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss until the vegetables are well-coated in dressing. Serve immediately. 

Notes: This salad could be enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs from your garden. You could also omit the feta cheese to make this a dairy-free dish.