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A Kitchen Inspired by a Simple Tomato

Kathleen Tozzi Kathleen Tozzi A Kitchen Inspired by a Simple TomatoBeautifully ugly heirloom varieties come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors. Photo by Todd Mason.
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I once heard someone ask a candidate interviewing for a job the question: If you were a vegetable which one would you be? Even for a grocery store, that’s a bit of a creative question and I can’t remember how they answered because I was only thinking about how I would respond. Every time I’ve interviewed since, I’ve wished someone would ask me the same so I could joyfully exclaim… A Tomato! I’ve decided that while technically I should answer that if the question was about what fruit I would be; I think I have decided on pear as my fruit which we may discuss in the fall.

While possibly considered a simple or a common vegetable, I believe the tomato’s greatest virtue to be its versatility. The tomato fits well with cuisines around the world, and is perfectly at home growing in our climate and here in Ohio dirt. A fresh tomato does not like the cold, but putting some up in jars as sauce or paste will give the eater a hopeful reminder that the summer sun will come again, even in the harshest of winters.

Even that staple of all our refrigerators -ketchup- comes from tomatoes. Tomatoes are sturdy enough to be served cooked and tossed in pasta and delicate enough to be eaten as is with maybe a drizzle of olive oil. And while it may look simple and sort of fragile on the outside; beneath the surface it’s quite juicy. But don’t ever ignore it too long, no one enjoys a rotten tomato.

WFM_July_tomatoes1

OK, maybe I don’t quite embody all of the qualities of a tomato, but one could aspire to be something much worse I’m sure. Tomatoes inspire me to do wonderful things in my kitchen. I could spend the afternoon making fresh cheese just to let it dance on a plate with a perfect tomato I found, with fragrant basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

Summer is in full swing, so finally we have reached the point in the year when the tomatoes are ripening! Like any vegetable, there are considerable health benefits to tomatoes. Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, is abundant in the vegetable, and is actually concentrated when cooked into sauce or paste. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins A and C, Folic acid, and much more, all delicious and easily accessible. Remember to store your tomatoes on the counter at room temperature, the refrigerator will turn your prize into something mealy and smooshy and sad to taste and cause it to loose some of that nutritional value.

Regretfully, my travels got the best of my backyard and I do not have any tomato plants this year. I usually at least have a container or two on the back porch with some basil and other herbs. But, I’m sure many of you have some blue-ribbon worthy beauties ripening on the vines of your gardens right now. If you just can’t wait any longer here is my recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes. I add pecans to the crust for an extra Southern nutty touch, but if you are a purist, just use all bread crumbs.

Pecan Fried Green Tomatoes

Green tomatoes ready to be fried into something special.

Green tomatoes ready to be fried into something special.

3 green tomatoes
1 C flour
2 eggs
1 C breadcrumbs (any will do, I usually grind up some stale bread)
1 C lightly toasted pecans, ground
Salt and Pepper
Oil for frying (I use olive, any vegetable will do, or bacon fat if you are hard core)

Slice tomatoes about ½ inch thick. Mix flour with a little salt and pepper and place in a flat bowl. Beat eggs with a little salt and pepper and place in a flat bowl. Mix bread crumbs and pecans with a little salt and pepper and place in a flat bowl. Begin with one slice of tomato and coat in flour mix, then egg, then breadcrumb mix and place on a tray. Continue with each slice. Heat enough oil in a large shallow pan for a shallow fry, about an inch of oil deep, to 375 degrees (medium to medium high heat). Fry each tomato slice for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and place on paper lined tray. Cool just slightly and enjoy! They are fantastic over a salad or for breakfast with a poached egg and hollandaise. Last summer in a pickling frenzy I made pickled green tomatoes which were incredible breaded and fried this way.

If you have a garden full of Roma tomatoes, want to savor the season, or are just craving spaghetti this weekend, here is a great simple recipe for Basic Marinara Sauce.  This can be canned in jars if you follow the proper method.

There are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, and some of my favorites are those beautifully ugly heirloom varieties that come in a variety of colors, shapes and flavors. I encourage you to try them all, just as they are, with just a touch of salt if you like (that’s just the way my Grandma served tomatoes). Here are a few fun recipes to try with those beauties as well.

I think this weekend I’m going to pick out some perfect tomatoes, roll out a simple butter pie crust, slice and layer them in with some soft feta, fresh herbs and pepper, fold up the crust’s edges on a baking pan and bake a rustic tomato galette. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these simple vegetables in season right now, and share with us how you are eating this season’s simple tomatoes.

With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.

All facts and information about our food waste in the United States came from the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

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