Tomatoes: Making the Most of the Summer Crop
Summer officially begins in June and as the days grow warm, it's a sure bet that vine-ripened tomatoes will soon be available. Although home-grown tomatoes are the dream of every professional chef and most home cooks, few of us have the time, energy or space to devote to a tomato garden. Congratulations are in order to those who do, but the rest of us are content to be left out of the weed-pulling-tomato-worm-picking crew. We can't wait to visit farmer's markets or roadside stands to choose our favorites, fresh from someone else's garden.
Summer's harvest brings familiar varieties like beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, and also an increasing number of heirloom varieties and hybrids. These tomatoes come in red, of course, but also in white, yellow and green, and even a red that's almost purple. Full-flavored heirlooms may be sweet and juicy or tart and spicy. Savvy shoppers select varieties that meet their culinary needs, whether it's tomatoes for a sauce, or a 'slicer' intended to be eaten out-of-hand.
When tomato season draws to a close, many chefs prefer to use processed tomatoes rather than poor quality fresh ones. A wide variety of whole, sliced and stewed tomatoes is available, plus any number of sauces and pastes. Many recipes can be adapted to use canned ingredients or even dried tomatoes.
Fresh or canned, tomatoes are popular. They are served both raw and cooked, liked by almost everyone, and are nutritionally beneficial. Tomatoes are low in fat and calories and have no cholesterol. They are high in vitamins A and C and in potassium. And many health researchers feel that lycopene, found in tomatoes, may lower the risk of prostate cancer in men who consume several servings per week. Some people enjoy juicing fresh tomatoes.
Two of the recipes that follow make fine use of fresh tomatoes. The salsa recipe, which specifies canned tomatoes, is a good year round recipe.
Artichoke PizzaThis is a great summer pizza. It's easy and makes good use of tomatoes, onions and basil, all plentiful this time of year.
GuacamoleThis guacamole, served with tortilla chips and a margarita, makes a wonderful 3-course meal.
Sidney's SalsaCilantro is a key ingredient in this recipe. Although the salsa does taste good without it, the cilantro adds a special flavor.
The salsa will keep about a week in a glass container. If you plan to serve small amounts at a time, do not add the cilantro until ready to serve each portion. Once the cilantro has been added, the salsa is best if eaten within two days.
Sidney Carlisle lives on a ranch in Meridian, Texas.
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