Getting In Tune with Tomatoes
It’s been said that "a world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins." So true. Just as a violin (or fiddle, if you will) is essential in classical, klezmer or country music, the tomato is integral to many a home cook’s repertoire. They add color to our salads, are the basis for many delicious sauces, and without ketchup as a dip, would our kids ever eat broccoli?
There are at least 10,000 varieties of tomatoes and probably about as many ways to prepare and enjoy them. I like to think of the tomato as 10,000 ways Hashem shows us how much He loves us!
Not only in the vast variety and pleasing taste do we see Hashem’s handiwork here. Each tomato we eat is brimming with essential nutrients we need every day. They are high in vitamins C, A and B and the minerals potassium, iron, and phosphorous. They have more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread and are naturally low in calories.
Tomatoes shine among the stellar cast of vegetables high in antioxidants. Lycopene, the antioxidant found in potent concentrations in the tomato, is the most powerful carotenoind in fighting aging of the skin. Evidence mounts that adding tomatoes, especially cooked, to our diet is associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Common wisdom says that the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables is diminished upon cooking, however processing of tomatoes can quadruple lycopene absorption. Processed tomato products such as canned tomatoes, pasteurized tomato juice, soup, sauce, and -yes kids, even ketchup!- contain the highest concentrations of bioavailable lycopene.
Also contrary to common wisdom, we now know that serving cooked tomato with oil rich dishes increases the body’s ability to absorb its nutrients into the bloodstream. Now that’s a new refrain. Kind of makes pizza sounds like a health food, doesn’t it?
Here are three refreshing, and refreshingly easy, recipes that make the most of the coming summer bounty of nutrient rich tomatoes.
Renee Chernin lives with her husband, David, in Jerusalem’s Old City where she writes and cooks on her forthcoming cookbook, Cooking for The King, the book of Torah insights, recipes and cooking tips designed to bring majesty to the mundane. Get a glimpse of her essays and recipes on thekosherchannel.com
SOUTH AFRICAN TOMATO SALAD
This lovely South African Tomato Salad typifies the mark the diaspora has made on Jewish cooking. Chutneys, curries and hot peppers play a large role in the South African recipes that Jewish homemakers brought with them to America. I had this lovely salad while spending Shabbat in the home of a true artist. Our hostess paints, made the wedding gowns for the brides of her sons and is a collector of exquisite textiles and serving dishes from her former home. This salad is also a work of art--from the gardens of Hashem. Bright red summer tomatoes need little improvement but you'll be delighted with the kick and richness these simple ingredients produce when combined.
6 large beefsteak tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 small jalapeño pepper, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1. Place all ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until uniformly diced, do not puree.
2. Place salad in a plastic or glass container with a tight fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate several hours to overnight.
Makes 2 cups ~ Active time: 10 minutes
Spice up a plain fish dinner with this South African Tomato Salad:. Thaw frozen fish fillets, drain well and place in a single layer on a foil lined baking pan, season with salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes until flaky. To each cup of South African Tomato Salad, stir in one half each diced cucumber, mango and bell pepper, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and chopped cilantro to taste. Plate fish and top with this salsa.
SPICED GAZPACHO WITH CURRY CREAM
Think gazpacho is a potchke? Not this recipe, it tastes even better using seasoned canned tomatoes than fresh, healthier because cooked tomatoes have a higher level of antioxidants and it’s and so much easier!
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes seasoned with garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
dash liquid hot pepper sauce, optional
1 cup water
1/4 cup (pareve) sour cream
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder
green onions, cilantro or parsley, chopped, optional
1. Place all soup ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor. Process until well blended but not pureed. Remove to a 2 quart plastic container. Stir in up to 1 cup water until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate several hours or overnight, if possible.
2. In a small bowl, stir together ingredients for Curry Cream sauce. Set aside until ready to serve.
3. Serve cold, topped with a small dollop of Curry Cream and chopped green onions, cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Makes: 4-6 servings~Must make ahead~Active time: 15 minutes