By Sonia R. Martinez for The Hamakua Times of Honoka'a Hawai'i - July 27, 2012
Although the tomato is really a fruit, we all treat is as a vegetable. We use it in salads, sandwiches, soups, sauces and also as part of the basic foundation of certain cuisines such as Spanish and Italian where onions, garlic and tomatoes form a trinity of flavors from which to build many of their dishes.
As to the health benefits of the tomato…let me count the ways; high levels of Vitamins A and C, the beta-carotene which in turn acts as antioxidants. Tomatoes contain plenty of mineral chromium which helps diabetics with control of their blood sugar levels.
Vitamin A also helps improve vision and is excellent for keeping hair looking shiny and luxurious and the Vitamin K and calcium helps improve your bone mass.
Potassium and Vitamin B helps control cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which in turn helps prevent strokes; and in some studies it is believed that eating tomatoes (without the seeds) lessens the risk of kidney and gallstones and can diminish significant levels of TNF-alpha. TNF-alpha can cause inflammations and high levels have been found in patients who suffer chronic heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s.
In some studies it has been found that tomatoes and tomato based products may actually prevent serum lipid oxidation and reduce the risk of macular degenerative disease, a loss of vision in the center of the vision field which eventually can lead to blindness;…but the one biggest advantage over all others is the fact that the tomato is loaded with high concentrations of cancer fighting antioxidants such as Lycopene.
Besides, the Lycopene in tomatoes helps keep skin tone much better than any expensive over-the-counter facial and body creams...plus, one medium tomato contains only 22 calories!
All of that wrapped up in one little round and red package! So when you hear the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”… you might actually do better by switching to tomatoes!
4 medium sweet onions, quartered (*)
4 large green bell pepper, seeded and quartered
8 medium cucumbers, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
4 rib celery, coarsely chopped
12 large cloves garlic, peeled (**)
8 large fresh ripe tomatoes, quartered
8 cups tomato juice or use canned whole tomatoes with their juices
Small handful chopped fresh basil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Pinch of ground cumin or to taste
8 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
8 Tablespoons olive oil
Hot sauce to taste - optional
Place the onion, pepper, cucumbers, garlic (**) and fresh tomatoes in a processor; process until very finely chopped.
Add the tomato juice, basil, salt, pepper, cumin, vinegar, olive oil and optional hot sauce. Process until soup is the desired texture.
Taste for seasoning; chill for at least one hour before serving. If desired, garnish with finely chopped cucumber or whole basil leaves.
Notes: If the soup is too thick for your taste, stir in more tomato juice. If desired, use all fresh tomatoes and omit the juice entirely.
(*) We use Maui Sweets but Vidalia, Texas Sweet or Walla Walla can be used.
(**) If using a food processor start with the garlic first. If you throw the garlic in with the rest of the veggies, the garlic will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and you will have huge chunks instead of minced. I like to be able to bite my veggies in the gazpacho, but not a large piece of garlic. With the processor motor running, drop in the garlic cloves, one by one. When minced to your taste, open the lid add the rest of the veggies and then pulse or run to the desired consistency.
Yield: 16 servings – recipe can be halved and quartered easily.
Source: Sonia's Kitchen and the Akaka Falls Inn Cooking School after some trials with other recipes found on line.
Here is a recipe I shared originally 5 years ago. It is still one of my favorite ways to serve fresh sliced tomatoes.
Pure and Simple Tomato Salad
6 vine-ripened tomatoes
3 Tablespoons shallots, finely diced
1/2 cup minced chives or garlic greens
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Finely ground fresh sea salt
Fresh ground black peppercorns
Place medium sized pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil. Place bowl of ice water in close proximity.
Using a sharp pairing knife, remove the core from top of tomatoes and score the opposite end (making a cross at the bottom). Place tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove and transfer to iced water. This will prevent tomatoes from further cooking. Remove from the iced water, peel skin and do not discard (*).
Place tomatoes on cutting board and slice about 1/8 inch thick.
Arrange slices on serving dish or platter and sprinkle with the minced shallot, chopped chives, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.....Repeat process with remaining tomatoes. Allow to macerate for up to an hour.
YIELD: This amount serves 6 - we made it for 50 people during a Slow Food event using heirloom tomatoes of different varieties and colors and called Pure & Simple Rainbow Tomato Salad.
SOURCE: A combination of members of Slow Food Hawaii
(*) This comes from an Internet site speaking about the healthy properties of tomatoes:The best way to use tomatoes for skin care is to peel a bunch of them, eight to twelve, then lay back and place the tomato skins on your face (or other skin areas). Make sure the inside of the tomato skins are against your skin, and let this sit for at least 10 minutes. Then wash off. You’re face will be cleaner and more shiny, though it also might be a little red from the tomatoes. Don’t worry, that red on your face will wear away.
A hui hou!