Only potatoes are produced at higher quantities than tomatoes in the U.S. The word tomato comes from the Mayan ‘xtomatl’ (bonus points if you can figure out how to say that). Originally cultivated in South America, the tomato spread across the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Despite the fact that it is botanically a fruit, the tomato is still widely considered a vegetable in cooking and is even officially classified as a vegetable for customs purposes in the United States (there’s even a supreme court decision regarding the tomato because of an 1883 tax on vegetables but not fruits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_v._Hedden)
There are oodles of varieties of tomato (more than 7500 to be exact) – not that you’d know that from the spherical scarlet staple found at a grocery store near you. Those tomatoes are bred for shape (for ease of packing) and their ability to be harvested green so that they can be gassed with ethylene when they’re at or near their destination. The tomatoes at your local farmers market, however, are cultivated for flavor. Heirloom tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, and cherry tomatoes run from dime-sized and pearly white to purple and black striped zebras the size of golf balls, not to mention the classic cherry-red beauties. And don’t forget medium-sized meaty romas, ideal for sauces. If you aren’t crazy about tomatoes, pick up a new variety next time – their flavor might surprise you!
Check out four basic tomato sauces here: http://www.helpwithcooking.com/sauces/tomato-sauce.html.
In the first two (and in any recipe!) you can switch canned tomatoes out for fresh:
To substitute fresh diced tomatoes for a 14.5-ounce can of undrained diced tomatoes, use approximately 1 1/4 cups of diced fresh tomatoes and 1 cup of liquid. If your recipe calls for a 28-ounce can of undrained diced tomatoes, use about 2 1/2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes and 1 cup of liquid. Use any liquid that seems appropriate for your recipe, such as water, broth or tomato juice. (http://spontaneousderivation.com/2009/11/14/replacing-canned-tomatoes-with-fresh)
Fresh, in-season tomatoes don’t need a lot of messing with. Add them to shish kebabs, stuff them like you would a pepper, add them to grilled cheese sandwiches, top fried eggs with warm tomato and sautéed greens, or top sliced tomato with your favorite cheese and run under the broiler (kids love this!) or spread with guacamole or top with pesto and parmesan.
For a quick pasta dish (or just a lovely tomato-y snack or side) fry up some onions and/or garlic in olive oil or butter. Then add a couple handfuls of whole cherry tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes until the tomatoes are warmed through and maybe a little wrinkly. Toss with pasta or rice or eat on the side of fresh salmon or chicken breast. Salt and pepper to taste!
hot peppers or red pepper flakes and cilantro
fresh basil and parmesan cheese
your favorite vinaigrette, balsamic, or rice vinegar
steamed snap peas or broccoli
baby greens (beet, turnip, spinach, chard, sorrel – you name it!)
Or my personal favorite… prepare the tomatoes with greens and then fish them out of the pan and set aside. In the oil or butter left over, fry up half a handful of cheese curds (about 30 seconds on a side until golden brown). Throw the tomatoes and greens back in, swirl around in the pan, and then toss on top of your favorite crusty bread.
… And more easy recipes:
Fresh Tomato Salsa (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/fresh_tomato_salsa/)
2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes (from 1 lb to 1 1/2 lb), stems removed, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
1 serano chili pepper (stems, ribs, seeds removed), finely diced
Juice of one lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: oregano and or cumin to taste
1 Start with chopping up 2 medium sized fresh tomatoes. Prepare the chilies. Be very careful while handling these hot peppers. If you can, avoid touching them with your hands. Use a fork to cut up the chilies over a small plate, or use a paper towel to protect your hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for heat.
2 Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add some ground cumin.
Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.
Makes approximately 3-4 cups.
Serve with chips, tortillas, tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, pinto or black beans.
3 pounds (about 6 large) ripe, juicy tomatoes, cored
1 large cucumber (peeled if waxed)
1 medium onion
1 green pepper, cored
1 fresh jalapeño, seeded (optional)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup packed fresh parsley, cilantro or basil, or mix
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper
Chunk the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and green pepper. Slice the jalapeño into strips.
Dump the chunked tomatoes and garlic in the processor. Process until puréed.
Add the cucumber, onion, green pepper and jalapeño to the food processor, along with the herbs, vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Pulse until the vegetables are chopped but not yet puréed, still with some texture. Add pepper to taste.
Chill. Taste for seasonings: cold flavors lose strength, so you’ll likely need to ramp up the vinegar, salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve cold. If desired garnish with ice cubes, chopped fresh herbs or a dash of hot sauce, and serve with crackers or bread on the side.
Read more: Recipe: Simple Garden Gazpacho http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/kgk/2001/0901/redgazpacho.html#ixzz1xJZUhsUl
Check out more tomato recipes here: http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/tomatoes
and here: http://whatscookingamerica.net/TomatoRecipes.htm
… here too: http://www.sunset.com/food-wine/kitchen-assistant/easy-fresh-tomato-recipes-00400000050766/
It’s funny how many recipes for tomatoes there are. Especially when the easiest way to eat a fresh-from-the-farm tomato is so easy: just toss it in your mouth!