Tomatoes are probably one of the best known vegetables - botanically, they are a fruit. Many people have not had the good fortune to eat tomatoes that are picked at the peak ripeness and flavor. They come in many shapes and colors and for the most part are interchangeable.If your recipe requires seeded tomatoes, cut the fruit in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds and the juice. It is especially important when cooking tomatoes to not use aluminum cookware since their high acid content will interact with the metal. This may result in the migration of the aluminum into the food, which will not only impart an unpleasant taste, but more importantly, may have deleterious effects on your health.From a health standpoint, much has been documented about the benefits of tomatoes, but in a nutshell, they provide a large amount of Vitamins C, A and K, and one of the highest amounts of lycopene of any foodsource.
Storing / Preserving:
Do not refrigerate tomatoes. They lose a lot of their flavor when cold. If you must refrigerate tomatoes before you use them, try to store them in the warmest part of the refrigerator -- the door or the butter compartment. A great and easy way to preserve tomatoes is to freeze them. Just take the stems off, cut out any bad spots (it may be easier to use tomatoes with bad spots fresh instead of freezing them), place on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer. Once frozen solid, pack in large plastic bags until you are ready to use for your favorite sauce or soup. You can use just one at a time to perk up gravies or sauces. Once defrosted, the skins slip right off. Jim Schmitt, a core group member and expert on preserving the harvest, says to try this when you want to make sauce: take the desired amount of tomatoes out of the freezer and wipe off skins in warm water. Put the batch in a large pot and let thaw overnite. The next morning, take out the juice that has accumulated on the bottom of the pot (or place tomatoes in large colander over a large pot so juice can drip out). If you add a little salt, this becomes excellent juice. Jim makes sauce and puree just by putting the drained tomatoes in a blender, seeds and all -- you maintain more nutrients using the entire tomato. Cook these tomatoes for only about 10 minutes -- season as desired. This sauce can then be frozen or canned.
Preparation / Use Suggestions:
Tomatoes are so versatile, both raw and cooked. Add them to salads, make bruschetta, make a salad of just tomatoes, onions, basil and olive oil and vinegar, with herbs of your choice.
To make a tomato sauce, saute a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and/or 1-2 large chopped onions a couple of minutes until translucent, then add 8-10 chopped whole tomatoes, a teaspoon of dried or several teaspoons of fresh chopped oregano, basil, and any other herbs you enjoy, such as parsley or rosemary, and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Remove from the heat, drizzle with olive oil, and add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For a fancier version, sauté chopped olives and/or mushrooms along with the garlic and onions.
Tomatoes are a great addition to bean and vegetable soups.
Purée tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and scallions together in a food processor and season with herbs and spices of your choice to make the refreshing cold soup, gazpacho.
For international salad ideas:
Greek: Combine chunks of tomato, red onion, bell pepper, and cucumber in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese over the salad. Dress with olive oil, white wine vinegar that has been mixed with chopped fresh oregano. Garnish with sliced Greek olives.
Latino: Overlap slices of tomato, red onion, and avocado. Whisk together 3 T lime juice, 3 T olive oil, 2 T chopped fresh cilantro, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad.
Israeli: Combine 1 cup each finely chopped tomatoes and cucumber. Mix together 1/4 cup cider vinegar with 2 T vegetable oil and 1 T parsley. Toss dressing with salad and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Salad Caprese: Overlap slices of tomato and fresh mozzarella. Whisk together 3 T olive oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 1 T finely chopped basil, and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and garnish with whole basil leaves.