by Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet
“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.” Laurie Colwin
The tomato…. or the love apple as it used to be called long ago, has seduced the American population for over 150 years. America consumes over 22 pounds per person per year and over twelve million pounds annually, but it wasn’t always this way. For about a hundred years during the 1700s, tomatoes fell from grace, being thought to be poisonous. The reason this stained reputation was pinned on the otherwise innocent tomato is not really clear. Perhaps because it is a member of the nightshade, or Solanaceae, family, making it a cousin of the eggplant, potato, peppers and the deadly belladonna or nightshade.
The reason this darling in the vegetable world was called the “love apple” is even less clear. There are some speculations that it’s called this because it was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac that would overwhelm even the mighty of will. Supposedly Sir Walter Raleigh gave a particularly juicy tomato to Queen Elizabeth as symbol of his intentions. I think the tomato should be called a love apple because it is probably the best food you can eat, on a regular basis, and almost everyone loves them. (I certainly do!)
Tomatoes are overflowing with virtues in the nutritional department. Vitamin C is well represented in this colorful fruit, as well as beta carotene. But probably the most striking allure to tomatoes is they are one of the best sources of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. No other food has the high levels lycopene in it like our love apple. So take advantage of the tomato as much as you can, particularly this time of year when they are bursting with flavor.
A good way to choose a delicious tomato is to smell the stem end. If it has the aroma of the garden, you’ve got a good one. No smell and you can bet that it is a tasteless tomato. Also choose tomatoes that are firm to the touch and have no soft spots. I have also heard that you should never put a tomato in the fridge, it destroys the flavor. I put them in the fridge however when they get too ripe and bring them to room temperature before serving them.
The best way to eat a fresh tomato is unarguably at room temperature, sliced and with a sprinkle of salt on it. This time of year I have them for breakfast, then some for lunch and more for dinner. When I do make recipes with tomatoes I choose simple recipes to spot light their flavor that is hard to get from tomatoes that have been shipped a thousand miles.
Love Apple Bruschetta
This bruschetta can be served anytime of year because delicious cherry tomatoes are easier to get all year.
2 cups of organic cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons of thinly sliced basil
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoons of a good virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
Couple cranks of black pepper
OR ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced
Ciabatta or baguette cut into slices
1 clove of garlic halved
Combine the first 8 ingredients in a beautiful bowl and let stand for about 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry.
Toast the baguette slices in your oven under the broiler, spread out on a cookie sheet for about 1-2 mins on each side till they are golden brown. Watch them closely as they burn easily! Rub the toast slices with the garlic halves and place on a platter. Spoon the tomato mixture over the toast and drizzle a bit of more balsamic vinegar in a pattern over the bruschetta and serve immediately with a few sprigs of basil for beauty.
This next recipe is a feast for the senses. The tarragon is such a delicious complement to the heirloom tomatoes. Make sure and purchase as many different colors and kinds of tomatoes for the biggest impact. So easy and so delicious!
1/4 cup of finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons of good olive oil
2 pounds of organic heirloom tomatoes, cut into slices
¼ teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 fresh cracked pepper
Arrange the tomato slices on a gorgeous platter. Mix all the other ingredients together and drizzle over the tomatoes and serve with love.