Tomatoes are excellent for your health, and can be made so tasty in a variety of ways. Tomatoes contain lycopene, thought to have many health benefits, including the possibility of warding off prostate cancer in men.
There are over 5000 varieties of tomato in the world today, from yellow cherry tomatoes and green plum tomatoes to red beef tomatoes! It was in Naples that tomatoes transformed the original white pizza into the red, tomato-topped variety we know today. Italian cooking without the tomato would truly be unthinkable. Tomatoes can be bought in many varieties: Fresh, canned, pureed, sun-dried and semi-dried are all readily available today. Tomatoes are made up of about 94 percent water and must always be well drained, whether fresh or canned in order to avoid a soggy pizza.
Canned tomatoes. These are scalded, peeled and slightly salted before being canned. Canned tomatoes are a very popular choice for pizza makers today and are of equal quality to the fresh variety. In many cases, it is he superior, unblemished tomatoes that are sent away for canning when the not-so-perfect tomatoes are left behind for fresh sale.
Tomatoes lend themselves to a variety of cooking methods. Each method gives the tomatoes different flavors, from smokiness after grilling to a caramelized taste when sauteed.
Roasting gives tomatoes an extra flavor dimension with very little effort. To roast tomatoes, cook them at 500-degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until the skins are plumped and just begin to split. Roasted tomatoes, seasoned with olive oil and herbs, can be made into sauces or soups. You also can dice them and toss them with corn to create a summer salsa or puree them with black olives to make a sauce for grilled steaks or polenta.
Grilling tomatoes imbues them with a slightly smoky quality and starts to caramelize them. To grill sliced tomatoes, oil the grill or grilling pan thoroughly. If desired, season the tomatoes. Then, cook the slices two to four minutes, turning once, or just until the slices are heated through. Serve grilled tomatoes on hamburgers or other hot sandwiches, such as roast pork or barbecued beef; or serve them atop a green salad.
Broiling halved tomatoes is a classic French and English technique. In Provence, broiled tomatoes are liberally seasoned with minced garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and olive oil. In England, they usually are brushed with butter and sprinkled with parsley. To broil tomatoes, season them and place them four to six inches from the broiler for two to five minutes. Broiled tomatoes can be served as a first course or as an accompaniment to any dish; they are especially good with leg of lamb or roast beef.
Frying brings to mind green tomatoes cooked in seasoned flour and cornmeal or bread crumbs, but any firm, slightly under-ripe tomato can be given the same treatment. To fry tomatoes, slice them and pat them dry. In a shallow bowl, combine a little flour with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together one egg and a bit of water. In another shallow bowl, stir together cornmeal or bread crumbs, salt, pepper and any other desired seasoning such as grated Parmesan cheese, Paprika or thyme.
First dredge the tomato slices in the flour mixture. Then dip them in the egg mixture and dredge them in the cornmeal mixture. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil until almost smoking, then fry the tomatoes four to eight minutes, turning once. Drain them on paper towels. Fried tomatoes can be served with garlic mayonnaise and fresh lemon wedges as a first course, or along with lean bacon or ham. You can also serve them as a side dish.
Saute tomatoes until they are nearly caramelized to bring out their sweetness. It is a quick and easy way to prepare a side dish or sauce. For a side dish, slice or chop the tomatoes and season them with fresh herbs. Add chopped sweet pepper and onion or zucchini; cook the mixture in olive oil ten minutes or just until the tomatoes are barely soft but still hold their shape. For a sauce, cook the mixture 20 to 30 minutes or until it is thickened.
Grilled Tomato and Salmon Salad
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (4-ounce) salmon filets
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1 /2-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted*
In small bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients until blended; reserve 2-tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
Heat grill. Brush both sides of salmon and tomato slices with reserved 2-tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle salmon with 1/2-teaspoon pepper and 1/4-teaspoon salt. Place on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill four to six inches from medium coals. Grill five to seven minutes or until fish just begins to flak, turning once. During last two minutes of grilling time, place tomatoes on grill; grill two minutes or until tomatoes are slightly softened.
Meanwhile, place greens in large bowl; toss with enough of the remaining vinaigrette to lightly coat greens. Place on serving plates; top with tomatoes. Place salmon on tomatoes; sprinkle with pine nuts. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.
Tip: *Place nuts in dry skillet. Cook over medium heat two to three minutes or until nuts are light brown, stirring constantly.
Balsamic-Marinated Tomato Sandwiches
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 garlic clove, minced
4 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 individual French bread loaves, split
6 leaves Boston lettuce
2 avocados, sliced
In small bowl, whisk together oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, tarragon, 1/4-teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and garlic. Place half of the tomato slices and half of the onion slices on platter or in shallow baking dish; drizzle with half of the olive oil mixture. Add remaining tomato and onion; drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Let stand at least two hours, spooning juices over tomato and onion four or five times.
To assemble sandwiches, place bread loaves, cut side up, on plates or serving platter; brush cut sides with marinade. Divide tomato and onion mixture among loaves. Top with lettuce and avocado; sprinkle with remaining 1/4-teaspoon salt and pepper.
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