As summer rushes by, take time to smell the tomatoes

August 29, 1993|By Anne Vassal | Anne Vassal,Contributing Writer

I'll bet you can't describe the smell of a winter store-bought tomato. Don't worry, I can't either. Store-bought tomatoes are void of smell (and taste, if you ask me). And without an aroma, how can a food have flavor?

That's why I've been counting the minutes until tomato season arrives, so that I can sink my teeth into a ripe, juicy, red tomato that smells like a . . . well, a tomato. From that moment on, I don't let a day pass without consuming at least one tomato a day, picked fresh from our backyard garden.

A tomato is a good low-fat food, containing only 25 calories (1 pound of tomatoes equals 90 calories), as well as some vitamin C, potassium and a substantial amount of vitamin A. Because some vitamins are lost during cooking and canning, tomatoes in concentrated form, such as paste, contain more nutrients.

Pasta with tomatoes, basil and arugula

Makes 2 servings

2 to 3 ripe garden tomatoes, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic or champagne vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

salt, pepper

dash cayenne pepper

4 to 5 leaves fresh basil, washed, patted dry and cut with scissors

8 ounces angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti (I use whole wheat)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 to 3 cups arugula, washed, patted dry and cut with scissors

freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano

Toss together tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and basil. Set aside.

Bring pan of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Place pasta in large bowl. Toss with olive oil and arugula. Pour on tomato mixture and toss again. Serve topped with grated cheese.

Marinara sauce

Makes 3 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 small onion, chopped

4 cups peeled and coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes, not drained (Italian plums are best) or 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes (4 cups)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 sprig fresh basil (to be removed later)

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

freshly ground black pepper

dash cayenne pepper, optional

Heat oil in large pan. Add garlic and onions and saute, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. When transparent but not brown, add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaf, sugar, salt, and peppers to taste.

Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Sauce should be thick and smooth when finished. Remove bay leaf and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over pasta with sauteed fresh vegetables, chicken or veal, or use sauce to make ravioli or lasagna.

Curried green tomatoes Makes 2 to 3 servings

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small clove garlic, minced

1 small red onion, sliced into thin circles

1 teaspoon curry powder, or more to taste

dash sugar

dash cayenne pepper

salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

cornmeal for coating

1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, curry powder, sugar, cayenne, and salt and ++ pepper to taste. Saute until onions are limp and garlic is golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to plate.

Pour remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil into pan and heat over medium-high heat. Dip tomato slices in cornmeal and saute immediately on both sides until golden, 4 to 5 minutes total. JTC Arrange tomato slices on plate with onion mixture on top. Sprinkle chopped parsley over all.

Broiled tomatoes

Makes 2 servings

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half (don't cut through the stem)

1/4 cup dried bread crumbs

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or oregano

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt, black pepper

Place tomatoes, cut side up, on baking sheet lined with foil. Mix together bread crumbs, basil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mixture evenly on top of each tomato. Broil 4 to 5 inches from flame for about 5 minutes, watching carefully so they don't burn.

Cherry tomato pasta salad

Makes 2 to 3 servings

8 ounces rotini or fusilli spiral pasta (I use whole wheat)

1/4 cup olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

salt, freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves or basil

1 green or sweet yellow pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese or mild goat cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in pan until hot. Stir in vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place drained pasta in large bowl and pour oil mixture over top. Stir in parsley, mint and green pepper. If serving immediately, stir in cherry tomatoes and top with crumbled cheese. Or refrigerate salad until serving time, then slice and stir in tomatoes and top with cheese.

TOMATO TIPS

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