What We’re Cooking With Now: Organic Tomatoes
Looking for adventure in the kitchen? Our monthly What We're Cooking with Now post features a fresh produce ingredient, explains how to find the market's finest, and includes a recipe to try at home.
Why: Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits. They are also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. Tomatoes are on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list, which means they are one of the 12 produce items that are likeliest to contain pesticides. It is always recommended to eat organic versions of the food on the dirty dozen list to reduce or eliminate the amount of pesticides on the food you consume.
Shopping Tip: Commercially grown tomatoes are harvested and transported while still green and immature. To make them red before selling, food companies spray them with artificial ethylene gas. This process inhibits the development of natural flavor and may result in tasteless tomatoes. Therefore, locally grown tomatoes may taste better because they’re allowed to ripen naturally. If you buy unripened tomatoes, you can speed up the ripening process by wrapping them in a sheet of newspaper or a paper bag and keeping them on the kitchen counter for a few days. Just make sure to check them daily for ripeness. The redder a tomato is, the more lycopene it contains. Also, the deeper the color is, the riper the tomato is and the more flavor it has. There are several varieties of yellow, orange, green and purple tomatoes. The tomatoes should be firm but not hard. You should be able to squeeze it gently without it bruising and feel the flesh spring back.
Preparation: Wash your tomatoes in cold water to remove any dirt or residue. Slice the tomato vertically for salads to retain the juice. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally for stuffing to remove the seeds and juice. Use a serrated knife to slice the tomato in order to not bruise the skin or turn the tomatoes to mush. Alternatively, you can use a very sharp knife. Tomatoes are very versatile for cooking and can be prepared in many different ways. Dice tomatoes and cook sauté them lightly with garlic, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil to make a simple pan sauce which can be served on pasta, rice, vegetable side dishes or grilled meats.
Recipe: Quiona and Herb Stuffed Tomatoes
4 medium sized organic Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup of raw quinoa
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Cut a small slice off the top and bottom of the tomato to create flat ends. Cut the tomato in half horizontally so the sides are able to stand on their own. Scoop out the seeds and insides of the tomato, being careful not to break the tomato. Season the inside of the tomato with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook the quinoa for 12 minutes until soft, drain, chill. While the quinoa cooks, mince the garlic, herbs and breadcrumbs together until they are well blended and finely chopped. You may use a food processor for this. Add the pine nuts to the herbed bread crumb mix. Stuff the tomatoes with the quinoa, leaving about ½” on the top unfilled. Top the final ½” with the breadcrumb mix, then drizzle any remaining olive oil over the top of the breadcrumb mix. Bake in an oven set to 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the tomatoes start to turn brown. Let cool slightly and serve warm as a vegetable side dish.