Green Eats: You say ‘tomato’

No matter how you slice it, this vegetable (okay, fruit) is a culinary wonder.

tomatoes311 (photo credit: MCT)
(photo credit: MCT)
One of my favorite scents is that of fresh tomatoes, that old-fashioned smell that is becoming increasingly rare, except for summer time – their natural growing season.
This summer, I’m also growing my own.
Tomatoes are actually a wondrous fruit (botanically speaking, in spite of the fact that we consider them a vegetable), and there are thousands of varieties throughout the world. Last week, there was even an opportunity to taste some of them at a Slow Food get-together at the home of Erez and Noa Gozen of Moshav Yesha, who grow almost 2,000 types of tomatoes for seed-buyers around the world to sample.
Although some people who are sensitive to their acidity eschew them, tomatoes (and watermelon) are a great source of lycopene, a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant, which is more readily available to the body when the tomatoes are chopped or cooked. They are also low in calories… and did I say delicious? Freeze these best-of-the-season tomatoes for use in the months to come.
TOMATO SOUP 8-10 servings
Here’s how to do it in three easy steps:
1. You can use any tomatoes, but make sure they are ripe but not mushy. For sauce, the best type to use is the Roma (“Tamar”) because they have thicker, meatier walls and less liquid.
2. Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato and drop into a pot of boiling water a few at a time for no more than 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of ice water. This will facilitate peeling. Also remove hard cores. Cut in half and gently squeeze out seeds and excess liquids (you can save these for soup or a vinaigrette base). Turn over and drain well.
3. Pack into Ziploc bags (don’t stuff) and remove as much air as possible. For a vacuum effect: Stick in a straw and suck out remaining air. Pinch the inserted tip of the straw flat and slip it out.
This soup uses tomatoes and a variety of summer vegetables to make a delicious chilled soup. Serve it in the evening, and make sure to take off some for the kids before you add the Pernod! TIP: You can make an easy homemade vegetable broth for this recipe by cooking a couple of carrots, an onion, the stalks of the fennel and leek and the other part of the celery root (both used in this recipe), together with parsley and the tomato liquids in 5-6 cups water till tasty and fragrant (about 30 minutes).
✔ 2 kg. fresh tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped ✔ 1 large onion, coarsely chopped ✔ 1 leek (white part only), chopped ✔ 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped ✔ Half celeriac, peeled and coarsely chopped ✔ 80 gr. butter ✔ 1 liter (4 cups) vegetable broth ✔ 1 Tbsp. natural cane sugar ✔ Salt and white pepper to taste ✔ 2⁄3 cup Pernod or arak ✔ 250 ml. cream or 10% or 15% cream ✔ Chives or scallions for garnish
Melt butter and cook the onion, leek and fennel together until just tender. Add the celeriac and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth, sugar, salt and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes and let cool.
Pulverize in the blender or with a stick blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add the sweet cream and heat to just under a boil. Let cool, chill and stir in Pernod just before serving.
To garnish, cut scallions lengthwise into thin strips and drop into ice water until curly.
Divide the soup into portions and garnish with the scallion strips or chives.
✔ 1 mango, peeled and diced
✔ 1 avocado, peeled and diced
✔ 4 medium firm but ripe tomatoes, diced
✔ 2 or more Tbsp. hot fresh green pepper
✔ Half cup chopped fresh coriander
✔ 2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
✔ Salt to taste
✔ 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon or lime (soon to be in season) juice
✔ 1⁄4 cup chopped red onion
✔ 3 Tbsp. olive oil
Mix all the ingredients together, cover and chill. Serve with fish dishes, as a dip with tortilla chips or as a filling for pita or tortillas.