First I wait for what seems like forever for the tomatoes to ripen or the peppers to redden. Then, suddenly, it's an avalanche of summer vegetables. Even working at top speed, I have more tomatoes, sweet peppers, zucchini and corn than I can handle, and it takes some creative cooking to be able to take advantage of the welcome abundance.

My solution? Transform some favorite dessert recipes into dinner recipes. So a cheesecake is seasoned with fresh herbs rather than sugar and vanilla; zucchini is incorporated into a savory brioche and cheese pudding. Take the makings of a fruit crisp and use them on the surplus green tomatoes at the end of the season, but with a crisp cornmeal crumb topping.

Although summer vegetables and fresh herbs are at their peak, drought has affected quality in some cases. There are some common sense hints for picking out the best of the farmers market. Vegetables should look attractive and be free of any bruises or soft spots.

For zucchini, smaller is better. Choose ones that are two inches in diameter or less. Those giant county fair prize zucchini are quite watery and can have thick skins.

Pick tomatoes that have a strong, bright color, whether they are red, pink, orange or golden. Green tomatoes should feel evenly firm.

Sweet peppers should be firm, with a glossy skin and an even shape.

Look for corn with fresh-looking brown silk and plump kernels that fill out the entire ear of corn.

Herb leaves should look evenly green and show no signs of wilting.

These savory versions of baking favorites no longer serve as desserts. They fit in as appetizers or first courses, lunch dishes,light dinners when served with a salad, and of course, as the vegetable part of a meal.

Zucchini Bread Pudding

(8 servings)

With its 2 pounds of zucchini, this dish goes a long way toward devouring the predictable zucchini glut. Summer squash or a combination of summer squash and zucchini can be used.

3 cups unsliced brioche or egg bread, such as challah, cut into 1-inch cubes

6 tablespoons ( 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, plus additional for the pan

1 cup (1 medium) chopped onion

2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Place the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish and drizzle the melted butter over the top. Bake just until the edges begin to brown lightly, stirring once, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a medium pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir the zucchini mixture into the eggs and pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Bake until the filling is set, about 45 minutes. Serve hot.

Per serving: 231 calories, 9 gm protein, 17 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 101 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 384 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Lemon, Sage, Parsley and Thyme Cheesecake

(12 to 16 servings)

This herb-filled cheesecake has a cracker-crumb crust and an attractive parsley leaf decoration that bakes with the cheesecake. It makes a nice appetizer or sophisticated luncheon dish.

Although the ingredient list is long, this filling is made in a food processor and goes together quickly. When freshly baked, the cracker-crumb crust is slightly crumbly, but firms up after sitting overnight.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs, such as Ritz (about 40 crackers)

3 ounces ( 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon paprika, preferably hot Hungarian, or cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, tough green tops removed

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf Italian parsley, plus 24 whole leaves for garnish

1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme

1 teaspoon finely chopped sage

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs and butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

For the filling: In a food processor or blender, process the oil, garlic, lemon juice and lemon peel until the garlic is finely chopped, about 30 seconds. Add the egg, egg yolk, flour, sugar, paprika or cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and process until the eggs are fully incorporated into the mixture. Add the cream cheese and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sour cream and process just until it is incorporated and no white streaks remain. Pour the batter into a large bowl and stir in the scallions, chopped parsley, thyme and sage. Pour the batter over the baked crust. Smooth the top. Gently place a border of whole parsley leaves around the edge of the batter. The leaves should float on top of the batter.

Bake until the filling is set, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven; cool for 1 hour in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Use a knife to loosen the cheesecake from the side of the pan and remove the side of the pan. Cut the cheesecake into slices and serve cold or at room temperature. The cheesecake can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days.

Per slice (based on 16): 205 calories, 3 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 10 gm saturated fat, 215 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Green Tomato and Cornmeal Pecan Crisp

(6 servings)

Here's a cornmeal and green tomato version of a fruit crisp that may make you forget about ever frying green tomatoes again.

For the filling:

4 green tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the topping:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces ( 3/4 stick) butter, melted, plus additional for the baking dish

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish.

For the filling: In a large bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, parsley, stock and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.

For the topping: In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in the melted butter and mix until crumbs form. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the tomato mixture.

Bake the crisp in the preheated oven until it bubbles around the edges and the tomatoes are tender when tested with a toothpick, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Per serving: 301 calories, 5 gm protein, 30 gm carbohydrates, 19 gm fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 290 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Roasted Tomato Halves With Basil in a Parmesan Crust

(12 servings)

Long roasting brings out such sweetness in tomatoes that they almost seem to be candied. The tomatoes shrink significantly as they bake. This Parmesan crust is especially crisp and remains crisp after baking with the tomatoes. Served with a salad or bread, the tart makes a light summer dinner.

For the crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for working the dough

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces, plus additional for the pan

5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

10 medium to large tomatoes, skinned and cut in half horizontally

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic

20 basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

15 pitted oil-cured black olives

For the crust: Butter a 9-inch metal tart pan with a removable bottom. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium, combine the flour, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the shortening and butter pieces until they are the size of peas and the mixture looks crumbly. With the mixer running, add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms large crumbs and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Form the dough into a smooth round disk. Wrap and refrigerate the dough until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Trim the edges of the crust to leave a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold the overhang back into the pan and press it against the side of the pan to form slightly thickened crust. Refrigerate or freeze the pastry until it is cold and firm, about 1 hour.

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a shallow roasting pan or a baking sheet with raised sides with 2 layers of parchment paper.

Place the tomato halves, cut-sides up, in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt and garlic. Top each tomato with 1 basil leaf. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over the basil leaves. Bake until the edges of the tomatoes darken, about 1 hour; the basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, but they are not burnt.

Transfer the basil-topped tomatoes to the cold crust to form a tightly packed layer. Pour any juices that have accumulated over the tomatoes.

Decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake the tart until the edges are golden and the filling begins to bubble, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the chopped basil and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the basil mixture and the olives evenly over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Bake for 10 minutes. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Per serving: 152 calories, 4 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 9 gm fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 243 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Tomato and Horseradish Cream Stacks

(6 servings)

The always popular Napoleon pastries inspired this rendition that has crisp puff pastry layered with thick tomato slices and a sour cream-horseradish sauce. Try using a mix of colors for the tomatoes. Yellow or orange tomatoes look good when alternated with red ones.

Flour for rolling the dough

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17 1/4-ounce package), thawed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon chopped dill, plus dill sprigs for garnish

12 tomato slices (about 1/2 inch thick)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have ready an ungreased baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the puff pastry to a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and cut it into 12 (3-inch) squares. Leave the cut squares in place and prick the pastry with a fork. Sprinkle the salt over the top and place a wire rack on top of the pastry to weight it.

Bake the pastry until it is golden, about 13 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the pastry squares from the baking sheet and slide them onto a rack to cool, separating any squares that stick together.

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, horseradish and dill. Spread about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sour cream mixture over the top of 6 of the pastry squares. Place a tomato slice on top of the sour cream on each square. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon of the sour cream mixture on the tomato. Top each tomato and sour cream-topped square with another pastry square and repeat the sour cream and tomato layers. Top each tomato with a spoonful of the sour-cream mixture and a sprig of dill and serve.

Per stack: 269 calories, 4 gm protein, 22 gm carbohydrates, 19 gm fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 310 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Elinor Klivans's latest book is "125 Cookies to Bake, Nibble, and Savor" (Broadway Books, 1998).