Irresistibly summer: Tomatoes!

On my countertop right now I have a collection of tomatoes. It looks like they’re having babies! We’re at the pinnacle of tomato season, when they’re the juiciest, the most flavorful, the most irresistible. I can’t THINK of anything I don’t want to incorporate them into!

Besides slicing the most perfect tomato, drizzling on a little olive oil, sprinkling on some sea salt and just eating it, my other favorite thing to do with tomatoes is to roast them. When you roast tomatoes, they give up their amazing sugars and become so sweet! I’m very fond of roasting the yellow heirlooms, which are lower in acid, meaning they’re sweeter and easier to digest. I peel the bubbly skin right off and throw them into the blender with a handful of basil. People say, “Are you kidding me? That’s ALL you did?” It’s like drinking summer. Or add roasted tomatoes to any soup to turn it into something special. It’s like magic!

Preserving tomatoes

I have a friend who will can 100 pounds of tomatoes this time of year! She prefers San Marzanos, a variety of plum tomato considered by many chefs to be the best of its kind in the world. My friend would agree. I transform 40 pounds of Gravenstein apples into applesauce when the time comes, but 100 pounds? That’s two days of canning! But my friend is smart: she’s gets that taste of summer all year round. 

Roasting

This is so easy you WILL NOT believe it. There are 2 ways: 

  • Very slowly: in a 200 degree oven for a couple of hours. 
  • Quickly: in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. That’s what I do. I’m impatient! 

Toast a couple trays of tomatoes, then let them cool. The peels just slide off. Put them in a ziplock bag in small quantities and freeze. Then you’ll have a hint of summer you can savor in the midst of winter.

Nutritional Powerhouses

Tomatoes possess AMAZING health benefits, especially for cognitive and cardiovascular health. They provide a great source of vitamin A, which builds our brain’s plasticity and may help improve learning skills; memory-boosting vitamin K; and a bevy of B vitamins — folate, niacin, B6 — that are associated with stronger mental focus, energy, and better long-term cognitive functioning.

They are also high in the antioxidant lycopene,  which has been associated with potential protective benefits against Parkinson’s disease, some cancers, Alzheimer’s, and vascular dementia. An important note: cooking tomatoes combined with fat (i.e., tomato sauce) enhances transport of lycopene molecules into our bloodstream and tissue.  

Let’s cook!

I can’t help showing off another beautiful soup recipe from my new Clean Soups: Simple Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality, coming September 6! This one is Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup made with my favorite yellow heirlooms, but you can choose any color you like. Check your farmers’ market for bruised heirloom tomatoes, often for pennies on the dollar — you don’t need pristine tomatoes for this easy delectable recipe. 

This is a gorgeous roasted tomato sauce! The heavenly smells take me back to Italy, where I first learned how to make this lovely, light version. You don’t have to reserve this sauce for pasta—dollop it on fish, vegetables, and meat dishes. 

Sometimes food needs a little love, a little bling to provide some zing to what might otherwise be a bland taste. That’s where this salsa provides both some eye candy and a bright, fresh, crunchy taste. This is a summer shot of goodness, bringing together onions, cherry tomatoes, yellow and red bell peppers, basil, olive oil, and lemon zest. It goes great with halibut or grilled chicken or meat, and it’s also a super dipping salsa!

You have to seize the day with tomatoes, the MOST juicy fruit/vegetable, when they come into your market. Grab them! Hold onto summer as long as you can.

The best way to do that is to cook and can or freeze. It’s worth setting aside a Saturday or Sunday and getting into production mode. Every time you take out a little pint of summer from your freezer, you will exult! 

AS A COOK, LEARN TO TREASURE FOODS! PRESERVE THE VERY BEST VARIETIES WHEN THEY ARE AT THEIR PEAK AND STORE THEM IN YOUR FRIDGE, FREEZER AND PANTRY. YOU CAN RELIVE SUMMER IN THE DEAD OF WINTER, IF YOU PREPARE :)