We have entered February, the month of love. Chocolate may be the popular Valentine’s Day currency, but think outside the chocolate box, think sensual, think pommes d’amour, French for apples of love. In Italian, they say pomo d’oro, apples of gold. We know them in English as tomatoes.
Like apples, tomatoes are, botanically speaking, fruit, and they love us right back. They’re low calorie, high fiber and super-high in antioxidants, vitamin C and biotin, nutrients necessary for glowing skin and hair. Not only do tomatoes love us, they make us more loveable, more desirable.
Love apples that they are, tomatoes also love many foods (call them promiscuous). Every cuisine they touch, they enhance, including Caribbean, African, Southern, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Mediterranean. Linguini without pomodoro? Chips without salsa? Unthinkable. Bruschetta without tomato is just stale toast.
There are numerous prepared tomato bruschetta toppings out there. The best we tried is Elki (12 ounces, $6.99), available at Fresh Market. It’s best because it’s simplest, with maximum tomato, minimal canola oil, onions, vinegar and salt. There’s no sharpness, oiliness or sodium overload. A two-tablespoon serving contains 25 calories, 1.5 fat grams, 75 milligrams sodium and less than a gram of sugar. It’s not bad for the jarred stuff, but for the same price — or less — you can make the whole shebang yourself, baguette included.
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Call it happy coincidence or nature’s plan, Valentine’s Day coincides with South Florida’s tomato season. For a gorgeous red valentine, grow your own tomatoes or score heirloom beauties at your favorite farmers market. Local growers include Bee Heaven Farm, Paradise Farm, Teena’s Pride, Verde Farm and Worden Farm. Reacquaint yourself with the pleasure of fresh, ripe tomato, the tender burst of its thin skin as you bite into it, the burst of sweet slightly acidic juice within. It’s like falling in love again.
If love has a dark side, it’s this — tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, as are potatoes, peppers, eggplant and over 2,000 plant species, some edible, some not. This means they contain trace amounts of an alkaloid which has been linked to inflammation. The good news — most of us would have to eat an all-tomato-all-the-time diet to have a reaction to tomato other than delight. They’re ripe, seasonal, luscious and local — what’s not to love?
Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”
Pa amb TomAquet (Pan con Tomate)
Literally, bread with tomatoes, this Catalan dish is enjoyed at breakfast, as a little plate (tapa) and devoured as a late-night meal. It’s a more rustic and lusty version of bruschetta and a totally DIY affair. Other than toasting the bread, there’s no cooking involved. It’s barely a recipe. Like love, sometimes simple is best. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 baguette, sliced and lightly toasted
1 tablespoon (or more) extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 large ripe tomato, halved or quartered
Sea salt to taste
Take a toasted baguette slice. Brush it with a drop of olive oil (or be lavish with it, as they are in Spain).
Rub toast slice with the garlic clove and then with the cut side of the ripe tomato — really mush it in there. It doesn’t yield the crimson beauty of bruschetta, but the tomato pinkens and moistens the bread and with the garlic, imparts an incredibly vibrant flavor. Finish with a couple flakes of sea salt.
Eat at once. Enjoy.
Source: Ellen Kanner for Edgy Veggie.