Tomatoes 101

Add a burst of colour and flavour to a summer table with these 10 recipes.

07 Nov 2009

Summer is the best time to enjoy tomatoes - ripe, red and bursting with flavour! Scroll down for tips and recipes ideas.

In the beginning

The slow journey that brought the tomato to our tables began in Peru when a wild ancestor of the fruit made its way north, several thousand years before the Spanish launched exploratory expeditions to the Americas.

The earliest mention of the tomato in European literature was by Matthiolus in 1544 who referred to them by the name of pomi d'oro, or "golden apples", referring to the yellow tomato which was eaten in Italy with oil, salt and pepper.

Red tomatoes were introduced to Italy by two Roman Catholic priests. In Spain the tomato went by the name pome dei Moro (Moor's apple) and in France it was called pomme d'amour or "love apple". Trust the French to take one look at that red orb and immediately suspect aphrodisiac properties deeply imbedded in the succulent flesh.

The first cookbook to mention tomatoes was published in Naples in 1692. With their instinctive distrust of vegetables, the English remained aloof for at least another 60 years! And it was only in 1758 that a tomato recipe was printed in the wonderful British cookbook, 'The Art of Cookery' by Hannah Glass.

Today, happily, we're spoilt for choice. Colours and variety abound: green, yellow, pink, oxblood red and even black. As do shape and size: round, oval, elongated or ribbed. Some are sweet, some are tart...all are delicious.

Quick recipe ideas

Tomatoes and tuna:
Cut a circle around the stalk of a firm tomato. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Cube 100 g raw tuna, quick-fry the pieces in a little olive oil, fold 1 T chopped parsley into the tuna, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and spoon into the tomato. Place under the grill for 3 minutes and serve with a small rocket salad.

Breakfast tomatoes:
Prepare a tomato for stuffing as above, and lightly cook in a warm oven for about 5 minutes. Break an egg into each, season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes. Enjoy with a thin slice of toast.

Roasted cherry tomatoes:
Toss 400 g cherry tomatoes with 1 T olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes in a warm oven until the skins begin to split. Remove from the oven, throw in a handful of freshly chopped basil and spoon over grilled fish, warm pasta, or fresh salad.

Caprese salad:
Thickly slice a couple of tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt and allow to rest for a few minutes to extract excess liquid. Drain the liquid before layering the tomatoes onto sliced buffalo mozzarella slices and heaps of freshly chopped basil leaves. Season, and spoon a soupçon of olive oil over the salad. Enjoy with a small, chilled glass of sauvignon blanc.

And of course, the first and last word in tomatoes has to be bredie:
To keep six people happy you'll need about 1 kg wonderfully tender stewing lamb, gently braised in 3 T olive oil, some chopped leeks, a handful of chopped parsley, a little garlic, about 4 peeled and sliced Mediterranean potatoes, a couple of glasses crisp, low-alcohol dry white wine (one for the cook), and naturally, a few peeled and de-pipped tomatoes. Add all to the lamb, top with a little water (if needed) and simmer over a low heat until the bredie is rich and full-bodied.

Chef's tips

I never keep tomatoes in the fridge; rather out on a sill in the sun. They ripen beautifully and are delicious when sun-warmed. Remove the pips from tomatoes and use only the flesh in a chicken dish. It's the pips that cause the dish to become "sour".

10 recipes to try with tomatoes:
Make a basic tomato sauce with herbs for the freezer.

Spice up your breakfast with these Moroccan tomato eggs.

Check out our blogger Janice Tripepi's slow roasted cherry tomatoes.

Beautiful homemade tomato chutney.

Try these cheese and herb stuffed tomatoes on their own or as a great accompaniment.

Serve with a juicy rump steak.

Serve this delicious tomato and bacon quiche for a tasty brunch or light dinner.

Mop up the tasty juices of mussels in garlicky tomato broth with some crusty bread.

Try a cherry tomato and chorizo pasta for some punch.

Make your own tomato and salami pizza in no time.


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