Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tip Tuesday

It’s another gorgeous day here, although a bit cooler. The dreams of planting flowers and gardens have been put on hold a little longer – until at least Mother’s Day around our area.

One of my favorite summer foods is tomatoes – and they seem to be high on just about everyone’s "favorites" list. There appears to be no end to recipes and techniques for tomatoes, and some of the simplest are the best. How about just a plain tomato sandwich? Sliced tomatoes on good white bread with a little mayo, salt and pepper. Yum.

Here are a few tomato facts:

Tomatoes are a fruit and could also be classified as a berry because of their edible seeds. Most of us treat them as vegetables in savory dishes.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which is even more potent in cooked or processed tomato products. They also contain measurable amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium and iron.

It’s much easier to freeze fresh tomatoes than to can them. Simply wash and dry them well, place in zipper-seal freezer bag, suck out the air with a straw and place in freezer. No blanching or peeling needed.

Tomatoes have been grown as food since the 16th century, but often were considered poisonous. In the United States they were cultivated in home gardens as early as the 1700s, but really gained popularity in the 1800s. There are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes – choose your favorite!

A few tomato tips:

1) Cut tomatoes with a sharp serrated (or steak) knife for best results. A flat-blade knife could crush or bruise the tomato.

2) Store tomatoes at room temperature – not in the refrigerator – for best flavor.

3) Cook tomatoes in non-aluminum cookware since aluminum can change the flavor and color of the tomatoes, and the acid from the tomatoes may pit the cookware.

4) Add a bit of sugar to cooked tomato products to balance the acidity.

5) Canned tomatoes are a good substitute for those not-so-tasty out of season tomatoes.

6) Looking for the easy way to peel tomatoes? Simply cut a small “x” in the blossom end and drop them into boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, remove and gently pull skin away from the tomato flesh.

7) If not ripe, place tomatoes in a brown paper bag in a dark place for 3 or 4 days.

8) For sandwiches, slice tomatoes vertically to prevent seeds and juice from running out.

9) When buying tomatoes, look for those with smooth, unblemished skin. Also choose tomatoes that are heavy for their size.

10) To dehydrate tomatoes, slice them 1/2” thick and place on rack in baking pan. Preheat oven to 120 to 150 degrees. Place baking pan in oven with door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. The process may take 10 to 18 hours, depending on the moisture in the tomatoes. Rotate pans occasionally and turn tomatoes for even drying.

Now for a recipe I made the other night. I know there are tons of baked tomato recipes out there, but I just started mixing things together, and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

BAKED TOMATOES

4 large tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash salt & freshly-ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Remove small core from tomato and cut a very thin slice from blossom end so it will stand level. Cut out center of tomatoes to form a cup, reserving pulp for another use. Mix remaining ingredients well. Fill tomatoes with crumb mixture and mound on top. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Have a great week! As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. If you've just found this blog, be sure to read the archived posts!

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