One of my all time favorite things to grow in the garden is tomatoes. There is such a difference in taste between garden-fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, and those purchased from a store. I usually mostly grow red tomatoes, but I also like to change up the colors of my tomatoes and grow different varieties (red, yellow, orange). Variety of color in the diet is important, because although the macros and vitamins are similar, different colors indicated different phytonutrients. For example, yellow tomatoes have lutein which is an antioxidant important for eye and skin health, and red and orange tomatoes have lycopene.
Let’s talk about lycopene for a minute since tomatoes are the most prevalent source of lycopene in the American diet. This includes items like pasta sauce and ketchup. So what is so special about lycopene? Well, it is a powerful antioxidant, and like all antioxidants, it helps to reduce oxidative stress in our bodies. It has been studied and correlated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, it has been correlated with decreasing cholesterol and improving eye, bone, and skin health. Now keep in mind that many of these studies have been observational, or done in animals or test tubes, but they are still promising and point to what we have observed for a long time, which is that diets rich in fruits and vegetables promote health.
Lycopene is pretty cool, but there are many phytonutrients in plants, and while we don’t know everything about all of these phytonutrients, we do see that diet patterns with a variety of colors seem to contribute to greater health. So be adventurous and try different colors of your tomatoes.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes!
Browned Butter Tomato Pasta
- 2 tabelspoons butter
- 1/2 white onion, minced
- 2 cups roasted tomatoes can also use canned tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 pound penne pasta
- Fresh basil and parmesan for topping
- SKIP if you are using canned tomatoes. First you roast the tomatoes. Slice your tomatoes and put them cut side down on a baking sheet or casserole dish. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven and then broil on high until the tops blacken and bubble. Then remove from the oven, pinch the skins off and blend.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions
- Brown the butter by heating the butter over low to medium heat until the butter starts to turn golden brown and smells sweet. Next add your onions and garlic powder and cook the onions in the butter until translucent. Add the tomatoes to the onions and keep warm while your pasta cooks.
- Drain the pasta, toss with tomato sauce, and garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
- IN A HURRY? When I need a fast dinner, I just use canned tomato sauce and throw this together in 20 minutes.
This is another recipe that uses roasted tomatoes (see yesterday’s post for more examples). This recipe can be used with just a can of tomato sauce, but freshly roasted are extra yummy if you have time and extra tomatoes to use. Serve with a salad, zucchini, or green beans.
Roasted Tomato Soup
- 5 cups roasted tomatoes about 8 cups fresh
- 1 small white onion or 1/2 large
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- parmesan and basil for topping
- First you roast the tomatoes. Slice your tomatoes in half and put them cut side down on a baking sheet or casserole dish. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven and then broil on high until the tops blacken and bubble. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove from the oven, pinch the skins off and blend the tomato flesh. Try not to use all the liquid in the pan.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté in a large pot, the onions and garlic salt in olive oil. Add those to the tomatoes when blending.
- Add the tomato onion mixture back to the pot and warm back up. Add cream and mix, then serve warm with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Simple Brushetta Chicken
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1/3 cup minced white onions
- 10-15 fresh basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large chicken breast about 8 ounces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt more or less to taste
- 2 ounces cheese mozzarella is traditional, but also yummy with pepper jack
- Balsamic glaze optional, but highly recommended
- In a small bowl, mixed together diced tomatoes, minced onions, and basil. Add salt and vinegar to taste.
- Next get the chicken ready, slice a large chicken breast in half lengthwise so you have 2 thin breasts. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt.
- Grill on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes per side or until cooked to 165 degrees.
- Add cheese while still on the grill and continue to cook until cheese is melted.
- Top with tomato mixture and drizzle with balsamic glaze if desired.