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Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Need I say more?

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I hear Italy has the best tomatoes in the world.

As far as fresh tomatoes, nothing can beat one you pick off your own vine that has been nurtured for weeks.  The taste of sweet success, in nightshade form.

Those Italians have San Marzano tomatoes, they grow and can them.  I bought a large can of those imported tomatoes out of curiosity.  Are these really any better?  Well for a true scientific endeavour, I would have to prepare the exact same recipe using two types of tomatoes, forgein and domestic.  Did I have time for this experiment?  No.  I did prepare the San Marzano tomatoes in a lamb stew inspired by my late great aunt Viola.  My aunt sent me three of Granny’s old cookbooks aftering locating the shoe box housing them.  She sent me the books because you’re the family’s most passionate cook, she wrote in her card accompanying the books.  I cried.  I was elated and touched all at once.  In one of the books, a church group cook book, my Granny’s sister authored a few recipes.  One recipe was a tomato and meat stew, I had just picked up some lamb on a whim so that would be the meat, the tomatoes would be the handsome San Marzano.

Since this type of tomato is so prized and therefore more expensive, be careful to read the label on the can and check for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo, there are immitations out there.  True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano (Campania) region of Italy.  You can buy the seeds and try growing your own, but I doubt they will be the same unless you live near a volcano.  If I find the seeds, I’ll give it a go.  Italy is on the must-see/visit/taste list.

San Marzano Lamb Stew

  • about 1lb of lamb
  • 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 head garlic, roasted in foil until soft and fragrant
  • herb de Provence
  • 2 white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • handful green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • parsley (garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the tomatoes in their sauce over medium-low heat.  In corporate the roasted garlic, salt and pepper.  Break the whole pieces of tomatoes apart as they cook.

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  Brown in a Dutch oven on the stove.  Remove and sauté the onion in the fat.  Return the meat to the pan and fill in the gaps with the potatoes and green beans.  Add the tomatoes and cover.  Transfer to a 350ºF oven for 30 – 45 minutes.

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For those who are veggiephobic, this post is for you.

I get that some people, my son included, do not like tomatoes.  My roommate in college hated tomatoes.  Would not touch anything red on her plate.  This was a bit of a conundrum because 90% of the meals I could cook back then involved canned tomato in some form.  I think it was my (attempt at) Jambalaya that converted her from a tomato-tyrant to lycopene-lover!  The same trick has not been as successful with my son, mostly because my Jambalaya contains another food phobia of his: seafood.  Shrimp to be exact.  He gags at the sight of any aquatic species on a plate.  I wonder if he is trying to avoid accidentally eating Nemo?

To get those good wholesome tomatoes in his system, they had to be sweet and invisible.   I would need a cloaking device: the oven.

Roasting any vegetable (I know tomatoes are fruit, but that’s not important here) will concentrate the natural sugars and begin to caramelize them.  Humans, especially children, seek out sweet foods; this tells our brains that this food is fuel.  Bitter and sour indicate a possible threat, like poisons and broccoli.   Treat your less palatable vegetables to an artificial sun tan in your oven or on the grill.  They will be less likely to send off alarms, hissy fits, and tantrums at the dinner table.

This roasted sauce has five ingredients.

  • organic tomatoes, halved and cored
  • red bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • salt (to taste)
  • herbs: Greek or Italian herb blend, or fresh basil and oregano

Set the tomatoes and peppers cut side down in a roasting dish.  Brush the skins with oil.  Roast at 350ºF until soft, about half an hour.

Let the pan cool before carefully removing the skins from the tomatoes and peppers.  Put the pulp and any juices into a blender or food processor.  Add a pinch of salt and herbs to your taste.  Blend until smooth.

Pour the blended peppers and tomatoes in a pot, bring the mixture to a slow simmer and reduce to whatever thickness you like.  Store in the fridge in non-reactive containers up to a week or use it immediately with pasta.  If you reduce it further, it would make a great pizza sauce.

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Picked ripe from the vine tomato, basil, arugula, and lettuce.  A deliciously fresh salad will be my dinner tonight!  That little green house is working like magic.

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