Cooking with Tomatoes

For Soups, Salads and More!

By: Shauna Lindzon

 

Plump, sweet, and tart…these are all words that I think of when I am eating tomatoes.  When I envision them in a grocery store, there are so many different colours and varieties to choose from – Heirloom, beefsteak, San Marzano, cherry, grape, Roma, green etc.  Some are juicy, and some are drier.  Each tomato has its unique characteristics that you should look for depending on if you are eating them raw or if you are going to cook them.  Not to mention, you can buy them preserved in cans, jars, and sundried.  All varieties boast some great health benefits.  In addition to being full of vitamin C and Beta carotene (converts to vitamin A in your body), tomatoes have a phytochemical called lycopene which has been studied for its health benefits including reducing your risk for heart disease and cancer.  The more processed that tomatoes are, the more lycopene that is available.  Think of it as breaking the cells down and releasing more lycopene.  Therefore, tomato paste has a lot more lycopene available than a fresh tomato.  Fun fact – some people think of a tomato as a vegetable, but botanically they are actually a fruit, because they grow from a flower of a plant.

Tomatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients to use in cooking.  They are a universal staple in a variety of cuisines, including Mexican, Spanish, Middle Eastern, French, and Italian.  Popular dishes that highlight tomato as a prime ingredient include pan con tomate (Spanish toast), shakshuka, Provencal tomato soup, and lastly one of the most common dishes being pasta with tomato sauce.

How do you like to use tomatoes?  Here are some great ideas:  When in season, simply slice them up and pair them with some fresh sliced basil, mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and some flaked sea salt and cracked freshly ground black pepper.  If you are into canning, there is nothing better than taking field tomatoes and canning them to use year-round.

Have you ever made your own dried tomatoes?   You can use your oven to make the most delicious flavourful dried tomatoes.  Slow roast your tomatoes on a low oven temperature (250 ⁰F) for 2-3 hours.  This produces a sweet, but tart tomato that can be added to pasta, salads, soups, etc.

Another healthy, easy to make, and delicious late summer or early fall use for tomatoes is to make gazpacho.  To a blender, add tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, shallots (or garlic), olive oil, and then season with lemon juice, red wine vinegar and a fresh herb such as basil.  Add some salt and pepper to taste and you have a lovely appetizer to start your meal!  I hope that I have inspired you to grow, eat, and cook with tomatoes more often!

Shauna Lindzon is a dietitian and nutritionist.  She is a program developer and nutrition leader at Wellspring Cancer Support Network and enjoys doing virtual nutrition cooking classes and corporate wellness lectures.  For more information about Shauna visit shaunalindzon.com and follow her on Instagram @shaunalin.