I have been thinking a lot in the last couple of weeks about Tomatoes, when there is a glut, or they are amazingly cheap, what can you do with them? And what more, are they good for you ?
Well. There is a thought, the real name for tomatoes is SOLARUM LYCOPERISUM, which is the same family as the deadly nightshade, just think about it, the flowers of the tomato are very similar to those of the nightshade. The tomato was first grown in Central and South America. The Aztec word is Tomatl and as the Aztecs were in Mexico, it is assumed that is where they were first grown.
Apparently in a bizarre twist in what one would normally consider junk food, the medical researchers have discovered that eating Pizza ( Preferably Margharita) could reduce the chance of cardio vascular disease by 30 %. A study led by the Harvard School of Public Health studied 4,00 women in 2003, and concluded that those who ate several servings of Pizza per week had reduced their risk of Cardio Vascular disease. ( not sure what effect it had on their weight though !) But in general it has been found that eating tomatoes, especially cooked tomatoes, the incidences of Esophageal , Colon and Laryngeal cancer have all been reduced considerably.
The Tomato, is not a vegetable but a fruit ( obviously French Supermarkets do not know this. Here the customer has to weigh their own fruit and veg…. Woe betide you if you do not, no-one will rush to do it for you, so the choice is to leave it on the counter, or lose your place in the queue and go back and weigh everything !) But on the self serve scales, do not click on fruits for tomatoes, you will find them in the vegetable section. Actually one can be forgiven for not knowing this fact, as there are several other fruits, that are commonly thought of as Vegetables., Green, red, yellow peppers, Japaleno and other types of peppers, Cucumbers, green beans, runner beans, Aubergines, Avocados, Okra and all squashes, including courgettes, and marrows. Bizarrely , according to Wikepedia, in the USA in 1887, there was a tax on Vegetables, but not on fruits. The Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were in fact vegetables , a decision taken on their use and not on their biological foot print, and so in the USA in 1893, tomatoes became vegetables. On the other hand rhubarb which is usually used as a dessert, is in fact a Vegetable.
Tomatoes have not always been eaten, when they first appeared in Europe, they were feared, it was likened to Misletoe, never to be eaten. The Italians started cooking with it as far back as the 17 th Century. Tomatoes are both sweet and savoury at the same time, this the fifth favour that the Japanese have named Unami.
So in the summer time, fresh tomatoes are abundant, visit any market and the smell is unmistakable. Umm? Memories of child hood, when my parents grew most of our vegetables.
So what to do with all of this excess? For starters, a simple salad of sliced tomatoes, with or without some chopped spring onions, some olive oil and a sprinkle of Balsamic vinegar, fresh bread, what could be better than that, makes for a good picnic dish. Umm Wonderful.
Being a little more adventurous , Gazpacho, springs to mind. Looking into all things Gazpacho, I found that Gazpacho in Spain dates back to the Romans. There are many variations of Gazpacho, but I think that the one most common, or the one that is thought of mostly , is the red version, which gains its red colour from Tomatoes. There is white Gazpacho, made dried fruits and green ones. The common theme with gazpacho is Garlic and Olive oil.
So for interest I have made three different Gazpacho, the classic red one, a pale red one with crab meat and a green one made with apples.
So a rough guide to making a red gazpacho:-
3 ounces soft country bread, any tough crust cut away, 4 large vine tomates , cored and roughly chopped, 3 large spring onions, roughly chopped, ½ small green bell pepper, roughly chopped,½ English cucumber, roughly chopped, 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, salt to taste, juice of one lemon.
Olive oil for garnish
Tear the bread into small pieces and put into a large mixing bowl. Cover completely with 1½ cups cold water, pushing all the pieces down so they are completely submerged. Let stand until the bread has soaked up most of the water and is soft enough to fall apart easily, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the bread mixture to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients except the olive oil.
Process until the mixture is smooth and thick but some texture and flecks of colour from the individual ingredients are still visible.
Refrigerate until well chilled before serving, at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Ladle the mixture into shallow soup bowls and top each serving with a good drizzle of the olive oil and a few more grinds of pepper.
For the Crab Gazpacho:-
3 large garlic cloves; 2 slices day-old country-style, crustless white bread; 1/2 cucumber; 1 red chilli; 1 red peppers, 4 ripe tomatoes; 2 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar; 100ml extra virgin olive oil and an extra 3 tbsp; 1 lemon; Tabasco; 200g freshly picked white crab meat few sprigs flat-leaf parsley.
The instructions are basically the same as above, Soak the bread, and place all the ingredients except the crab , the parsley the Tabasco and the extra olive oil, into the food processor, Blitz, Chill and serve with a drizzle of olive oil , topped with the crab meat and garnish with the parsley. Serve with Tabasco sauce or any other hot sauce on the side .
Finally for the Green Goddess version of Gazapcho:-
Again the instructions are more or less the same. Ingredients :-
50g stale white crustless bread; 3 garlic cloves; 3 sticks celery, 1/2 cucumber, 3 limes; 2 Granny Smith apples, quatered, 3 spring onions; 1L chilled water; 3 tbsp olive oil; 1 large ripe avocado and a handful of fresh washed baby spinach.
Tear the bread into the food processor bowl.
Add coarsely chopped garlic. Blitz & rinse and chop the celery. chop the cucumber Add celery and cucumber to the garlicky crumbs and blitz.
2. Squeeze the juice from 3 lime into a bowl.
Quarter, de-seed and chop the apples, tossing in the lime juice. Add to the mix and blitz.
Trim and chop the spring onions and add them too.
3. With the machine running, add the water gradually and then 2 tbsp oil in a trickle. Season with salt to taste; it will need at least ½ tsp.
4. Run a knife round the avocado, twist apart, remove the stone and spoon the flesh into the blender.Taste and adjust the seasoning. Chill and serve with a swirl of olive oil and a swirl of plain yoghurt.
So for your health sakes eat lots of tomatoes ( and Pizza!)