GC#28 – Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Update on pickles – Better than Zabars’ after two weeks!  These pickles are now translucent all the way through and have a deep garlic, dill flavor flavor infused over a briny background.  Get me more pickling cucumbers!  They’re hard to find in the Mid-Atlantic and I want them as fresh as possible.  I would like to a few even longer, but, alas, they are almost all gone and I’ve emptied the crock, discovering another hidden delight — pickled garlic.

I spent a lot of time in Blog #2 on tomatoes.  I should have waited until early August, when they’re at their prime in the Mid-Atlantic states.  I won’t go over old ground, but I’ve been trying tomato recipes all week, and here are a three of the best of them.

Greek Salad

Tomatoes with sweet, fresh peppers and new onions, a little garlic and some locally made feta cheese.

 There are hundreds of so-called Greek salads.  Here’s a simple one based on some of this weeks farmers’ markets produce.  Some cooks mix textures, chopping the tomatoes and slicing the onions, for example but I like to keep them all about the same size.

Ingredients for Greek Salad

  • 3 Tomatoes — cut up into 1/3rd  to 1/2 inch size pieces.
  • 1 Red onion — chopped a little smaller
  • 1 Red or green pepper — seeded and chopped like the onion
  • 1 Cucumber — peeled & chopped almost the size of the tomato.
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup Black olives — pitted and cut in half.
  • ½ lb Feta cheese cut into chunks.
  • Olive oil to taste
  • Fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, basil)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation of Greek Salad

  • Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup This week’s real winner is this rich variation on tomato soup.  It’s fast, easy, delicious and can be completely vegetarian.

Roasting the tomatoes brings out a deeper tomato flavor, and mixing roasted tomatoes with garden fresh sweet red peppers deepens the flavor even further. I’m not talking about those big, watery red peppers you find in the supermarket and even in my Co-op, full of water and not much flavor.  I’m talking about original, heirloom peppers. My CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) grows a lot of different varieties. Last week I used a tiny sweet red pepper with an intense flavor, but it was a lot of work cutting them up and removing the seeds. This week I’m trying this larger sweet red pepper.

There are many variations of roasted tomato soup, but this is one of the easiest and simplest.

Ingredients for roasted pepper and tomato soup

  • 3 pounds tomatoes. Most kinds work, but avoid very wet tomatoes.
  • 1 pound sweet peppers. Pick the most pungent you can find.
  • One or 2 hot peppers to taste. (Optional)
  • One large white onion cut into thin slices or chopped.
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro 1 bunch of fresh cilantro will focus on tied with a string
  • ¼ cup olive oil (more or less).
  • 6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation of roasted pepper and tomato soup

  • Cut the tomatoes in half.
  • Place them cut side down in a roasting pan covered with half the olive oil.
  • Lightly char them under the broiler flame. Remove but do not discard the blackened parts and coarsely chop.
  • Core and remove the seeds from the red peppers and cut them into thin slices.
  • Sauté the onion and garlic and cilantro over a low heat in a saucepan with the rest of the olive oil.
  • Add the slices of red pepper, and sauté them for a couple of minutes.
  • Cover the pan and let them steam for about 20 min., until very tender.
  • Add the tomatoes and the stock and cook for about 10 min.
  • Purée the soup in a blender and strain through a sieve or process through a Folly Food Mill. This will remove the tomato seeds and coarse pepper skin.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. Try adding a little lime juice if you like.
  • Garnish with a simple, natural cheese, fresh cilantro sprigs or thin strips of fresh basil.

Okra with Tomatoes

Another vegetable appearing in the markets this weekend, okra is grown all over the temperate and tropical world.  It originated in Africa, or maybe Southeast Asia, but it is now widely used around the world.  It came to the United States with our slaves and was a staple of the slave diet.

Okra is wonderfully good for you.  “The superior fiber found in okra helps to stabilize blood sugar and curbs the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.” according to nutritionist Sylvia Zook.  “Okra’s mucilage not only binds cholesterol but bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.”   Fiber in general is helpful for keeping the colon clean, but okra is one of the best, because its slimy nature makes it easy to pass stools. “Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic.”  Zook concludes.  Unlike some prescription and over-the-counter drugs for constipation, okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming (except for the many who greatly enjoy eating it), has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most.  “Further contributing to the health of the intestinal tract, okra fiber (as well as flax and psyllium) has no equal among fibers for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics).”

To retain most of okra’s nutrients and self-digesting enzymes, it should be cooked as little as possible, e.g. with low heat or lightly steamed. Some eat it raw.  I have a deep fried okra recipe I love, but this is tomato week, and here’s a great okra and tomato recipe.  The acid in the tomatoes keeps the okra from being too slimy.

Ingredients for Okra with Tomato:

  • 4 slices bacon (you can skip the bacon and use olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh okra, washed, stemmed, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • pepper, to taste
  • dash crushed red pepper, or one jalapeno to taste

Preparation of Okra with Tomato:

  • Fry bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp and fat has been rendered; drain well on paper towels.
  • Crumble bacon and set aside.
  • Add the chopped onions to the skillet; reduce the heat to low. Cook onions for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sliced okra, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper or jalapeno and stir well, then simmer for about 20 minutes, until okra and tomatoes are just tender.
  • To serve, spoon okra into a serving dish and sprinkle with the crumbled bacon.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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One Response to GC#28 – Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

  1. suzanne goldberg says:

    The tomato recipies sound and look terrific. i can’t wait to try them!
    Thanks, Chris

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