SLICE OF LIFE
It's way too late and way too hot to plant and grow your own tomatoes this year. My plants are still alive only because of the diligent watering carried out by my significant other.
However, don't despair if you can't pick your own from your garden. Just drive down to your local farm stand or grocery and take your pick for the literally dozens of varieties of luscious tomatoes available right now.
Tomatoes are not only yummy, they are rich in vitamin A, B and C, beta carotene, lycopene, chromium and a whole bunch of other stuff that is not only good for you, it's also low in calories and inexpensive.
What's the best type of tomato to buy, you ask? My answer is: It all depends on what you're going to be using them for. Almost all the commercially available tomatoes have been bred for specific qualities. Tomatoes come in about every color so I thought a guideline might be helpful:
Globe (aka beefsteak) tomatoes are your most commonly available variety. They are easy to spot as they are usually front and center in the produce section and are large, round and red.
Cherry tomatoes are tomatoes that are, surprise, about the size of a cherry. They are usually sweeter and juicer than the larger tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes are the big "woo hoo" tomatoes these days. They're available in all shapes and colors and are much more fragile than other varieties. They are sweet and flavorful but tend to go from ripe and ready to over ripe in just a day or so. Use them shortly after picking or purchasing. These are the tomatoes with the most variety of colors, shapes and sizes.
Plum or Roma tomatoes are the pasta sauce ones. They don't have as much juice or as many seeds as most of the other varieties, so they tend to be the go-to tomatoes for great sauces and not used so often in salads or salsas.
Classic Tomato Salad(Pareve)
3 Tbsps. balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 Tbsps. olive oil
2 tsps. sugar
3 lbs. firm tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and cracked black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil and sugar. Rinse and core tomatoes and slice 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick. Arrange in layers on a serving dish, drizzling vinegar mixture and sprinkling sesame seeds, basil, salt and pepper evenly over the top. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Fresh Tomato and Orzo Soup(Pareve or Meat)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsps. sugar
9 large tomatoes seeded and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 Tbsps. fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
fried onions (I use Durkee's), optional
In a large sauce pan, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic, sprinkling the sugar over the onions after they have cooked for about 2 minutes. Continue cooking until the onion starts to soften. Add tomatoes, broth, dill and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
Using an immersion blender, purée the tomato mixture and then reheat the soup to a boil. Add the orzo and cook 7 to 9 minutes or until the orzo is done. Serve immediately with a few fried onions on top.
Serves 6 to 8.
Tomato and Corn Salad(Pareve)
6 ears corn, kernels cut off
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 can hearts of palm, sliced into rounds
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsps. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 tsps. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salad greens for 6 to 8
In a bowl, combine corn, tomatoes, onion, hearts of palm, avocado, and basil, and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. Whisk to combine. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat.
Place the salad greens in a salad bowl (or you can make up individual dishes) and place the tomato and corn mixture on top.
If this is in a salad bowl, toss to combine. If on individual plates serve as is.
Serves 6 to 8.
Oregano Tomato and Spinach Salad(Pareve or Dairy)
2 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsps. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsps. sugar
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh oregano
2 cups baby spinach
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-6 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
In a bowl, combine the vinegars, oil, salt, sugar, pepper and oregano. Whisk to combine and taste to see if it's sweet enough or needs more oregano.
In a salad bowl, combine the spinach, peppers, tomato, cucumber and olives. Drizzle the dressing on top and toss to coat. Sprinkle the cheese on top and then let the salad sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving so the flavors can blend.
Note: A friend of mine adds chunks of salami and omits the cheese to this salad and says it's more than a meal.
Salmon With Tomato Corn Salad(Fish)
1/4 tsp. ground oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and black pepper
6 salmon filets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsps. margarine or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tsps. minced garlic
2 cups corn (from 4 large ears)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
In a bowl, combine oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the salmon.
Heat oil in skillet and cook the salmon to just until lightly brown on the outside. Do not overcook; the center shouldn't be cooked yet. Remove the salmon from the pan and set it aside.
Don't clean the skillet. Add margarine, onion and pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, until onion is soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and sauté, stirring 1 minute.
Stir in the lime juice, corn and wine, then add the salmon back into the pan. Cover with a lid and cook about 10 to 15 minutes.
Eileen Goltz is a freelance food writer and the author of Perfectly Pareve. Email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org . Her blog address is: Cuisinebyeileen.wordpress.com.