For an Arizona desert dweller like me, that generally means going to the grocery store and purchasing tomatoes at a good price. It certainly doesn’t mean that they taste like the tomatoes my mom used to pick from her garden on our farm, or like my sister’s tomatoes, red ripe, from her Manitoba summer bounty. These I only dream of. I am told that there are Phoenicians who grow tomatoes in their suburban yards but, frankly, I think it’s an urban myth. Of course, I jest a little, but not too much.
However, I have to report that this summer I struck gold – or rather “red.” I am staying at a lovely cottage in Southern California right now, and the angels who are my landlords planted three, prolific, tomato plants along the fence of my yard, and I am in farm girl heaven! Each morning I look out the window to see which juicy gems are ripening to the perfect hue. And, nothing (except being out of the desert and near the ocean) gives me more pleasure than to pluck them from the vine and conjure wonderful ways to eat them.
I’ve had sliced tomatoes on toast and chopped tomatoes scrambled with eggs for breakfast. I’ve diced and tossed them with cottage cheese, paired them with sliced avocado in a sandwich, broiled them topped with cheese, and simply sliced and served them dotted with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I have yet to make a Caprese salad, but that surely is on the list, as is a fresh tomato pasta sauce. Oh, the joy and versatility of tomatoes!
Technically a fruit, not a vegetable, the tomato has great nutritional value with lots of Vitamins A and C and provide a good source of lycopene, which supports heart and bone health. Fresh tomatoes help lower cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Delicious and nutritious – the best of both worlds!
Over the weekend I used my freshly plucked tomatoes to make a classic Mexican salsa/salad – Pico de Gallo – often called salsa fresca. There’s little to this recipe’s preparation except chopping the ingredients. I am sharing the quantities I used, but add more or less of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.
½ medium white onion, sliced (see preparation below)
5 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeño, diced (removing seeds and veins lessens the heat factor)
Juice of ½ lime
¼ t garlic powder
¼ t onion powder
A dash of chili powder
Kosher salt or Seasoned Salt (my favorite is Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt)
Place 1 cup cold water and 2 ice cubes in a medium bowl. Add onion slices and let sit for 10 minutes; drain well and chop. (this takes the bitter edge off the taste)
While the onions are bathing, chop the tomatoes, cilantro and jalapeño. Transfer to a medium bowl, add onions, lime juice, seasonings and salt, to taste. Stir gently.
Refrigerate or serve immediately with tortilla chips or your choice of dippers. Or, use over eggs, tacos, steak … use your imagination!
Note: There are tons of variations on Pico de Gallo – try adding one or more of these to the recipe: diced avocado, diced cucumber, cooked shrimp, cubes of cotija cheese or crumbled feta, black beans, or substitute your favorite pepper for the jalapeño.
Thanks Lisa and Rex for adding the tomato magic to my summer!
Eat well. Be happy.