Culinary students vying with each other focused their creativity on ways of using fresh tomatoes, and came up with a variety of appetizing, seasonal ideas.

A recipe for Seared Red Snapper with Grilled Tomatoes and Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette was first prize winner in a recent contest sponsored by the Florida Tomato Committee.Recipes follow for the dish, full of flavor from the balsamic-vinegar reduction topping the fish that rests on its bed of roasted tomato. Recipes are also included for the second-placing Savory Tomato Bread Pudding and for third prize winner, Asian Tomato Soup with Shrimp and Clams.

Each winner received a cash prize, and a matching prize was given to his school.

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RECIPES

SEARED RED SNAPPER WITH GRILLED TOMATOES AND TOMATO-BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

Vinaigrette

1 cup orange juice

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Grilled Tomatoes

6 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, in 1/2-inch thick slices

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Red Snapper

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 red snapper fillets (6 ounces each)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

4 cups cooked rice pilaf or quinoa

Chopped fresh parsley, optional

To prepare vinaigrette: In a small saucepan, combine orange juice, vinegar and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until reduced by half and syrupy, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl toss chopped tomatoes with oil and salt. Pour hot vinegar mixture over tomatoes; set aside.

To grill tomatoes: Heat grill or grill pan. Lightly brush tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill tomatoes 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Overlap tomato slices in a circle on each of 6 dinner plates, dividing evenly; set aside.

To cook red snapper: in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until hot. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Cook fillets, a few at a time, until flesh flakes, about 3 minutes on each side, adding more oil as needed. Transfer fish to a large plate; cover and keep warm.

To serve: Spoon about 2/3 cup rice pilaf or quinoa in center of each tomato ring. Top with a fish fillet; spoon Tomato-Balsamic Vinaigrette over fish. Garnish with topped fresh parsley if desired. Makes 6 servings.

- From Steven Liebhauser, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I.

TOMATO BREAD PUDDING

1 1/2 loaves (about 12 ounces) French or Italian bread, in 3/4-inch thick slices

1 1/2 cups milk

1 1/4 cups half and half

1 cup heavy whipping cream

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (3 ounces)

3 cups peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomatoes (about 11/2 pounds)

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking dish; set aside. Arrange bread on a cookie sheet in a single layer; bake until lightly toasted, 5 to 8 minutes. In a large bowl, combine milk, half and half, cream and eggs. In a cup combine parsley and thyme. Cover the bottom of the prepared dish with half the toasted bread. Top with 1 cup of the Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and half the herbs. Cover with half the milk mixture and half the tomatoes. Repeat layering. With a spatula, press bread down to cover with milk mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes. Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. Cut into 9 rectangles. Makes 9 servings.

- From Doug Forshagen, Art Institute of Houston

ASIAN FLAVORED TOMATO SOUP WITH SHRIMP AND CLAMS

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chopped onions (2 medium)

3 teaspoons minced garlic

4 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)

3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon chopped Thai chili pepper

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon bottled fish sauce

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

16 littleneck clams in shells

1/4 cup green onions (scallions), cut julienne

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir until tender, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, ginger, sugar, Thai pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil and fish sauce; stir until well blended. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and clams; cook until clams open, about 15 minutes. Serve garnished with green onions and cilantro. Makes 8 servings.

- From Edward S. Cotton Jr., Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.)