When I planned this column way back in mid-July, I was envisioning local tomatoes piled up in all corners of the world by now: Garden centers, backyard gardens, farmers markets, produce sections, CSA bags. But, alas, I haven’t seen many. Some, but not many. Everything this year seems to still be two or three weeks behind, despite plenty of hot weather and rain.

If you know of a source, get ready to rumble. If not, just hold onto this page for a week or two until those later ’maters finally do show up.

The Tomato Tart, while it tasted amazing with just hydroponic red beefsteaks (all that was available when I was testing the recipe), is a blank canvas for various colors and heirlooms: Yellow, orange, purple, streaked, whatever. Go ahead and make it a rainbow.

The Spicy Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce was a huge hit at my house and is super simple to put together. You could make it any time of year with canned diced tomatoes, but it would make a delicious use of six good-sized fresh ones if you’re ever overwhelmed with them. It would work as breakfast, lunch or dinner and requires minimal supervision.

Five things I learned:
1. The tart recipe calls for a tart pan with a removable bottom. I don’t have one. I half-heartedly looked for one at a couple of places, but frankly knew we’d be taking pictures of this thing in the pan anyway, so I just used the ceramic one I have.

Tarts look kind of cool when freed from their pans, but they’re also vulnerable to bumps and uncertain handling, and there’s no telling how the crust is going to behave when sliced. I would consider it a personal triumph of dexterity if I got a perfect slice of tart removed from the whole without a pan holding up the rest of the tart crust.

So, if I happen to stumble over a tart pan with a removable bottom at a garage sale or thrift shop, I’ll pick one up, but I’m not going out of my way to acquire one.

2. Now it is the time to talk about how the Tomato Tart tastes.

Because two people in my household have stunted, self-limited palates, I had the pleasure of eating the entire thing, one or two pieces at a time, over a week or so. And what a lovely week it was. I never once got tired of it. It heated up in the microwave and made a delicious entree paired with both a dry white and a citrus-infused IPA, both of which cut the richness but didn’t overpower the flavors.

And the flavors: Cheesy, savory, salty, tangy — this dish had it all. If I have a complaint, it’s a weird one: Too much crust. Who complains about that? I think that might just be because my tart pan was smaller than the size called for. The crust was very crumbly and rich, and actually a smidgeon too much of both, so I wound up scraping the last of it off my plates. No big deal.

The only shame of having to eat all this myself was that my mom, who appreciates all of my cooking, would love it. But I never got out to her house when I had it on hand. I’ll have to make it again to share with her. Darn.

3. About three years ago, I got good and tired of seeing a poached egg nestled into every dish on every food magazine cover, web page and email. It became ridiculous, really. I would roll my eyes and moan, “I get it, you can poach an egg in everything! Great! Can we do something else now?” It was almost as bad as the deification of bacon. I mean, I love bacon, too, but I don’t need it in my milkshake and sure as heck don’t need it on wrapping paper, socks or infused into salt.

But I digress. And regress. I’ve always been someone who picks up a wildly out-of-control trend when it’s starting to die out to sustainable glowing embers. That’s when I’m comfortable with the concept, feel I can use it constructively, and it’s become at least a semi-classic part of contemporary culture.

Thus I bring you Spicy Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce without a shred of irony.

4. The egg dish is a fantastic low-carb breakfast if you’re in need of such a thing — and even if you aren’t. Pair it with a side of bacon or sausage patties. Chorizo would work if you can take all that heat. The tomatoes are pretty spicy. Leave out the crushed red pepper if you must. We skipped the focaccia bread at my house.

This is kind of like huevos rancheros for dummies: No tortillas, refried beans, avocado, cilantro or cheese. But there’s nothing stopping you from adding all or any of that. Add some sour cream, maybe sauteed onions.
But don’t get silly. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity, showcasing fresh, in-season tomatoes with some runny egg yolk mixed in for richness and protein. Sublime.

5. I don’t recommend storing the Spicy Poached Eggs dish. It’s best eaten fresh and hot. Refrigeration will give the tomatoes a mealy texture, and reheating will toughen the eggs. So have at least two spice-and-tomato-loving people on hand when you make it.

Don’t skip the drizzle of olive oil on the eggs before serving, and if you like fresh basil, don’t be shy with that, either.

Now, let’s all go out to the tomato plants and cheer them on. Talk to them, weed them, water if they need it. Check for bugs. Just make them feel loved — and maybe a little more motivated.

Tomato Tart
Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes; prep time: 20 minutes; serves 10
1 pound assorted tomatoes, cut into half-inch slices
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
2 cups pancake mix
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup sandwich spread, mayonnaise or salad dressing
3 medium green onions, chopped (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place tomato slices in single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 F. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, cut butter into pancake mix, using a pastry blender, until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add boiling water; stir vigorously until soft dough forms. Press dough on bottom and up the side of tart pan. Freeze 10 minutes.

Bake 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Sprinkle with ½ cup of the mozzarella cheese. Cool 10 minutes in pan on cooling rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, mix remaining ½ cup mozzarella cheese, the Parmesan cheese, sandwich spread, green onions and basil. Spread over crust. Pat tomatoes dry with paper towels; arrange over cheese mixture. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove tart from side of pan before serving. Garnish with additional chopped basil, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving: 420 calories; 32 g fat (13 g saturated); 930 mg sodium; 25 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 10 g protein
— www.bettycrocker.com

Spicy Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium tomatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 eggs
2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil or oregano
4 wedges Italian flatbread (focaccia), optional

For the tomato sauce, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until tomato juices begin to thicken, stirring and crushing tomatoes occasionally with the back of a spoon.

Crack one of the eggs into a small bowl or cup. Slip the egg into the tomato mixture. Repeat with the remaining eggs, allowing each egg an equal amount of space in the tomato mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until egg whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard.

Drizzle eggs with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil before serving. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with flatbread.

Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories; 16 g fat (3 g saturated); 186 mg cholesterol; 691 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 13 g protein
— www.bhg.com
— Jennie Geisler can be reached on Twitter: @ETNGeisler.