Having Your Way with the Love Apple
“A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins.”
The tomato…. or the love apple, has seduced the American population for over 150 years. America consumes over 22 pounds per person 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 naughty 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, the potato, and the deadly belladonna or nightshade.
The reason this darling in the vegetable world is 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.
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 that inhibits the growth of cancer, big time. 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.
I like to use simple recipes with tomatoes this time of year to highlight their amazing flavor that is hard to get from tomatoes that have been shipped a thousand miles. A good way to choose a delicious love apple 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. I have also heard that you should never put a tomato in the fridge, it destroys the flavor.
Warming the tomatoes up in this first recipe really makes the flavors pop! This bruschetta can be served anytime of year because delicious cherry tomatoes are easier to get all year. Make sure and get the organic ones, they taste so much better.
Love Apple Bruschetta
2 to 3 cups of organic cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons of thinly sliced basil
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
2 teaspoons of olive oil
¼ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
Couple cranks of black pepper or
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 hours to allow the flavors to marry. Heat up a non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray it with a touch of cooking spray. Add the nuptial tomato mixture to the skillet and cook 10 minutes stirring here and there, till a rich aroma fills the room. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Heat up another skillet on med-high heat, this time pick a big one. Spray with a bit of cooking spray, and place the bread in it. Cook the bread for about 2 minutes per side till a warm golden color. Remove from the heat and rub the toast with the garlic halves and place on a plate befitting the occasion. Spoon the tomato mixture over the toast and drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar in a pattern over the bruschetta and serve immediately with a few sprigs of basil for beauty.
Nutritional Info for four servings, Calories 122, Fat 3.5 grams, Fiber 2
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.
¼ 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 sea salt
¼ teaspoon 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.
Nutritional Info for 8 servings, Calories 60, Fat 2.8, Fiber 1
Tomato, Cucumber and Mint Salad
2 large English cucumbers
1/3 red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
3 large tomatoes
2/3 cups of coarsely chopped red onion
½ cup of chopped fresh mint
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
Cut the cucumbers lengthways, and gently scrape out the seeds. (I give those to the chickens!) Then cut the cucumber into ½ inch pieces or so and place in a large bowl. Mix the vinegar, sugar, salt together and drizzle over the cucs, and toss well. Let this merry mixture set at room temperature for about an hour, tossing occasionally. Next chop the tomatoes into bite sized pieces and add to the merry mixture with all the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt and pepper then serve with sprigs of mint for eye candy.