Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Indulging in the many joys of tomato season

E-mail this article \ Print this article

Courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research
Baked tomatoes are also a good accompaniment to a small portion of fish or meat with a green salad.
Beautiful, healthy, low-calorie and versatile, tomatoes are delicious served in any number of ways. If you have a kitchen garden with enough sun and water, why not serve fresh, sliced tomatoes with basil for breakfast, lunch, dinner — or all three? If you rely on a farmers market, chances are you’ll be able to buy an assortment of different varieties of ripe tomatoes, good for serving raw, baked or as the base for sauces. Even supermarkets tend to have tasty vine-ripened tomatoes this time of year, and, if you buy them slightly under ripe, leave them on a windowsill to ripen in the sun.

Dozens of tomato varieties are available, ranging widely in size, shape and color. Among the most common is the beefsteak tomato, which tends to be large, bright red and slightly elliptical in shape. Beefsteak is not the best choice for this recipe. It tends to split and become runny when cooked. Try instead the globe tomato, which is medium-sized, firm and juicy and is delicious raw or cooked. Another good option is the plum tomato or Italian plum, a flavorful egg-shaped tomato that comes in both red and yellow. If you’re baking several tomatoes, you might alternate colors for an elegant presentation.

Although the tomato is considered one of America’s favorite vegetables, it is a fruit. Marketers worked hard through the late 19th century to raise its visibility in the U.S., and in 1893, it was officially classified as a ‘‘vegetable” for trade purposes because it was used as one. Europeans had discovered the joys of this fruit well before Americans did.

Tomatoes supply vitamin C and potassium. They are very rich in antioxidants that help decrease cancer risk. At least one of these phytochemicals, lycopene, is more available after the tomato is cooked.

This recipe is a natural for anyone trying to increase the number of interesting vegetable dishes on the plate. Baked tomatoes are also a good accompaniment to a small portion of fish or meat with a green salad. One baked tomato served on a bed of raw or cooked spinach makes an appealing first course, too.

Broiled Tomatoes Provencal

Olive oil

4 medium firm, ripe tomatoes

1⁄2 cup bread crumbs, preferably whole wheat

2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 7x11-inch baking dish and set aside.

If necessary, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each tomato so that it will stand upright. Combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise; then gently squeeze out their seeds. Arrange cut side up in the baking dish. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the tomatoes, gently patting down on top of each tomato half. Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden and the tomatoes are softened, about 50 minutes.

Makes eight servings.

Per serving: 56 calories, 2 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat), 8 g. carbohydrate, 2 g. protein, less than 2 g. dietary fiber, 75 mg. sodium.

Good Food⁄Good Health is provided courtesy of The American Institute for Cancer Research.