Juicy tomatoes can tickle the tastebuds

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tomatoes are my favorite thing of the summer, but the really good ones are coming to an end. They are still in the farmer’s market but not as good looking as in June and July. Tomatoes don’t set fruit well in our heat.

Tomatoes are good for you. They are rich in cancer-fighting lycopene. Lycopene is one of the most concentrated carotenoids found in the blood, organs and tissues of the body. The potent antioxidant capabilities of carotenoids neutralizes free radicals, which have long been believed to be risk factors for many age-related degenerative conditions, including heart disease and cancer.

Tomatoes also seem to be a weapon against prostate cancer in men, and cervical and ovarian cancer in women. A study has shown that men who ate more than 10 servings of tomato-based foods a week had a 35 percent lower risk for prostate cancer than the men who ate less than one and a half servings per week. Similarly, other studies have shown that high carotene intake, especially a diet high in lycopene, significantly reduced the risk of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women.

To enjoy all the benefits of tomatoes, you may need to eat 10 servings of cooked tomatoes or tomato products every week. Just be sure to mix the tomatoes in an oil base, such as olive oil to enhance lycopene absorption. For example, tomato sauce would be a much better source of lycopene than a raw tomato.

My favorite way to eat tomatoes is sliced with olive oil, basil and mozzarella cheese; salt and pepper. Sliced with mayonnaise on white bread – it can’t be beat.

But I have tried to find some new different tomato recipes this summer and have come up with a few. The first is a tomato cobbler, which is really sweeter than I would have liked, but it would suit many people’s taste, I am sure. Just last week a friend at church told me how she liked the recipe. Another is from my new cookbook by Andrea Reusing, Cooking in the Moment, which I will talk about later on in a future article. She won the James Beard award for the best chef in the Southeast this year. It is a cream of tomato soup using tomato stems with leaves. Quite clever I would say.

From ‘Martha Stewart Living’, July 2011.

Tomato Cobbler

Serves 6-8

For the Filling:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 pounds cherry tomatoes (I used regular tomatoes cut up. My friend did it both ways.)

3 tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Biscuit Topping:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

Coarse salt

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (2 ¼ ounces), plus 1 tablespoon, for sprinkling

1 ½ cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Make the filling: Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool.

Toss onion mixture, tomatoes, flour, and red-pepper flakes with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and some pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the biscuit topping: Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or rub with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add cream, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms. (Dough will be slightly sticky.)

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish (2 inches deep). Spoon 7 clumps of biscuit dough (about ½ cup each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Brush dough with cream, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, about 1 hour to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.

This dish can stand on its own or could be served with a meat course.

From Cooking in the Moment by Andrea Reusing.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Tomato Leaves

Serves 8-10

4 pounds (about 20) very ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, halved, and seeded, juice reserved

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups minced onions (about 3 small)

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ cup dry sherry

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ cup heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

A handful of tomato stems with leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into ¼-inch cubes, put them in a bowl, and season with 1 teaspoon salt.

Melt the butter in a heavy nonreactive pot over low heat. Add the onions and garlic and season with 1 teaspoon salt. Sauté the vegetables for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are soft.

Raise the heat to high, stir in the flour, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in the sherry and scrape the bottom of the pan as it bubbles away. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the tomatoes and their juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and the cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender.

Stir in the cream and then the milk. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the tomato stems. Let steep for 10 minutes; then remove and discard the stems.

Before serving, reheat and check the soup for seasoning. Add a little water if the soup seems too thick, and serve with freshly ground pepper at the table.