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tomatoes

Tomatoes are such a staple in Canadian cuisine: tomato sauce on pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, in a curry and there’s nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.  Ontario’s outdoor season ranges from July to September but we are fortunate that locally grown greenhouse tomatoes are available even during most of our winter months.

Tomato Varieties:

There are so many varieties of tomatoes, but the general categories are globe, beefsteak, Roma tomatoes – otherwise known as plum tomatoes, pear, cherry, grape, cocktail and Campari. Globe and beefsteak tomatoes are what people envision when you think of a tomato and are more commonly used for salads and sandwiches. Plum and pear tomatoes are commonly used for sauces because of their robust flavour, and cherry, grape, cocktail and Campari tomatoes are smaller and typically eaten fresh and in salads or out of hand, because of their small size, bright flavour and juicy texture.

How to select:

Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.

How to store:

Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavour!

With tomatoes in abundance, many people buy crates of tomatoes to preserve them and enjoy in the off season. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious.

How to prepare tomatoes:

Tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry! Wash tomatoes in cold water.

To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife (serrated/bread knives are the best). Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.

For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an X, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!

For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.

Tips:

Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!

Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning.  Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.

Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away.  To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.

What do tomatoes go well with?

Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, they are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavours like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Serving ideas:

Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches. You can kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them in the oven! Add them to flatbread for an easy and tasty lunch.

You could make your own tomato bacon jam for a great condiment to spice up your regular sandwiches.

Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.

Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.

Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.

Try making your own kimchi tomatoes for a bold and flavourful side dish.

Tomato Nutrition:

Indicative of their bright red hue, tomatoes are high in lycopene, which is reported to be an antioxidant that helps your body eliminate free radicals. One medium tomato has only 22 calories but packs 26% of your daily Vitamin C, 20% of Vitamin A, 12% of Vitamin K, and is also a source of potassium, manganese, fibre and iron.

 

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