GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If you have tomato plants ready to harvest, you may be asking yourself, what should I do with this? Well Chef Char joined 3 ON YOUR SIDE to show us 3 different ways to use the tasty fruit.

Pico de Gallo/Salsa Fresca/Fresh Salsa 


  • 1 large sweet white onion, diced (about 2 cups) 
  • 8 cups diced fresh garden tomatoes 
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, small dice 
  • 3 serrano or hot chili peppers, small dice 
  • Juice of 1 lime 
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, minced or whole leaves removed from stems 
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Clean vegetables and cut according to directions.
  2. Use gloves when working with the hot peppers.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add each ingredient and lightly stir.
  4. Refrigerate before serving.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tomatoes Caprese


  • 3 ripe tomatoes 
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, thickly sliced 
  • Large bunch fresh basil leaves 
  • Olive oil and balsamic reduction, for drizzling 
  • Himalayan pink salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Wash and cut fresh tomatoes into thick slices and arrange on a platter.
  2. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the fresh mozzarella cheese slices on top of each tomato. Arrange whole basil leaves on top of the fresh mozzarella slices. 
  4. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and olive oil immediately before serving.

Hint: You can purchase balsamic reduction or you can reduce balsamic vinegar at home. To make balsamic reduction at home, simply add 2 cups of balsamic vinegar to a sauce pan. Place the sauce pan over low heat for 20 minutes until the vinegar appears to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.



  • 4 cups fresh diced tomatoes (Roma or plum tomatoes if you have them!) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine 
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar 
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut chiffonade 
  • Juice of ½ lemon 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut at an angle in 1/2” to ¾” slices
  • Olive oil or pan spray, as needed for brushing lightly on bread
  • Shredded parmesan cheese and extra chiffonade basil for garnish, optional


  1. Preheat oven or grill to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, add fresh diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and basil.
  3. Mix and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Lightly coat sliced French bread with olive oil or pan spray.
  5. For oven toasting, line the oiled French bread on a prepared cookie sheet before placing into a preheated oven and toast until a light brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven, flip all of the bread slices and then top with 1-2 Tablespoons bruschetta.
  7. Place pan back in oven for another 5 minutes.
  8. For grilling, place a sheet of aluminum foil over top of grill grates and line the foil with the oiled French bread.
  9. Toast the bread on one side for about 3 minutes, or until grate marks appear, and flip each slice of bread.
  10. Top with the tomato mixture, about 1-2 Tablespoons and allow to toast an additional 2 or 3 minutes.
  11. Place bruschetta onto a large serving platter.
  12. If desired, garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and additional fresh basil.
  13. Serve immediately.

If you'd like to get cooking with Chef Char, she invites you to check out her cooking classes! They happen at Kitchen 242 at the Muskegon Farmers Market normally every Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Muskegon.

You can also follow Chef Char on Facebook!


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