Black is beautiful

Not to steal any thunder from our friends in the Home & Garden section, but not all cooks grow their own produce. So here's the skinny on which tomatoes to seek out at farmers markets this summer (did we say summer?). TomatoFest Garden Seeds, one of the largest Internet retailers of organic heirloom tomato seeds, predicts that "black" tomatoes will be hot. Its top 10 list: Paul Robeson (purple/black), Cherokee Purple (purple/black), Brandywine (pink), Amana Orange (orange), Marvel Stripe (red/yellow striped), Julia Child (pink), Black Zebra (green/purple striped), Black Cherry (purple/black), Kellogg's Breakfast (orange) and Aussie (red). "Black" tomatoes were native to southern Ukraine during the early 19th century. The Robeson variety is described thusly: "dusky, dark-red skin with dark-green shoulders and red flesh in its center. This beefsteak tomato is filled with luscious, earthy, exotic flavors, and has a good acid-to-sweet balance." Can't wait!

Creativity counts

Some cooks regard recipes as holy writ, others as mere guidelines. Local food writer Jamie Miller is among the latter, and she's put her philosophy in writing with her cookbook, "Make It Your Own" (Cumberland House, $16.95). The book has two parts -- the first with almost 100 recipes for marinades, sauces, salsas and spice rubs, and the second with ways to use these flavor variations in the basic recipe, then in "Classic Combos" and "Daring Pairings." The idea is to show how easy it is to adapt a dish to your tastes or to the occasion. Miller is a grand-prize winner in national cooking contests, and appears occasionally on the Food Network. Go to www.jamiecooks.com.

Start hot

If you're looking for something other than Cupid to celebrate this month, why not hot breakfasts? It's National Hot Breakfast Month, a designation nudged into existence by sausagemaker Jimmy Dean. It's an uphill battle, with more than 60 percent of Americans starting the day with cold cereal or other unheated foods. Still, the search for warm breakfast options led us to www.mrbreakfast.com, a site about all things breakfast, including this nugget that we share for those awkward silences that often accompany a first-time Valentine's Day dinner: Breakfasts in space have come a long way, with astronauts now having their choice of three coffee blends and three versions of scrambled eggs. But even a sweet roll must first survive a ride on the NASA Zero-Gravity KC-135 jet to see how it reacts to micro-gravity before making the menu.