Jul 9, 2013

The TOMATO... "Apples of Love"

The tomato has been traced back to the Aztecs. The name tomato is derived from the Aztec word "tomati". The Aztecs cultivated them and ate them mixed with chiles. Spanish travelers brought tomatoes to Europe in the 16th century, but at this time, there were Moors in Spain, and they took the tomato back to Morocco, where they called it pomi dei mori, or "apple of the Moors." When the French got hold of the tomato, they called it "pommes d'amour," or apples of love. They believed that the tomato had aphrodisiacal powers. Today, Italians still love a good pomodoro, while English-speaking people use the Aztec-inspired word tomato.

The tomato is actually classified as a fruit, not a vegetable, and belongs to the same family as tobacco and the toxic, deadly nightshade. The heat-loving tomato is grown in backyard vegetable patches from Hawaii to Florida and beyond.

The tomato is well adapted to the climate of Hawaii and grows year-round here. Unfortunately an insect called the melon fruit fly love tomatoes. They sting the fruit and lay their eggs in them, rotting the fruit. I would say that at least 25% of the tomatoes I have purchased on Moloka'i over the past 11 years have rotted on my kitchen counter. The store bought tomatoes that don't rot have been very disappointing because they taste like tasteless hot house tomatoes. Occasionally I find a tomato that tastes like the tomatoes I grew up eating in Tennessee, tomatoes that were purchased at Molokai's local farmers' market, or at Kumu Farms. I believe they taste good because they were vine ripened. My only guess is that tomatoes grown in this state are picked while still green to avoid being stung by the fruit fly, leaving the tomatoes not vine ripened and tasteless. These flies begin mating in mid-April and continue through summer months and will attack ripening tomatoes. The only option is to protect the fruit from the flies by planting larger tomatoes in the fall and grow cherry and roma tomatoes in the spring and summer. Cherry and plum tomatoes have tougher skins which the melon fruit fly can't penetrate as easily.

The University of Hawaii has developed varieties of tomatoes resistant to root-knot nematode, another tomato pest present on the islands. When you set out to buy tomato seeds or seedlings, look for the cultivar names 'Anahu', 'Healani', 'Kalohi' and 'Puunui'. Go to this website to buy their seeds. I have been told that the best heirloom tomatoes to grow in Hawaii is the the "Cherokee Purple" - it's delicious sliced, made into salsa or cooked into sauce. It's been one of the hardiest and consistently productive of all the large heirloom tomatoes. The most productive plum tomato that I've heard about is the "Flamme" (aka - Jaune Flamme). It's yellow-orange, about the size of a golf ball and it is ono to eat. It holds up well in the heat with minimal cracking as do the cherry tomatoes. "TomatoFest" is a great source for tomato seeds. They must have almost every open pollinated tomato seed known to mankind and all of their seeds are organic.

Cooking with fresh tomatoes has always been a joy for me. Hopefully one day Hawaii's tomatoes will be pest free and taste like a tomato should taste.

Tomato Recipes:

Panzanella - Italian Bread Salad
"Panzanella" - Italian Bread Salad
Click on photos to view larger
There are many variations for this rustic Tuscan Italian bread salad, but basically the bread, tomatoes, and basil are the stars here. You'll need a good, dense loaf of bread that is at least a day old! Other options are to add capers, olives, roasted red bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, anchovies, etc.

5 ripe Roma tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small Japanese cucumber, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, very finely minced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces with your hands
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more as needed
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 thick slices of stale country style Italian bread, or French baguette, torn into bite-size pieces.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic and basil. Drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil and the 2 tablespoons vinegar and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Place half of the bread in a wide, shallow bowl. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Layer the remaining bread on top and then the remaining tomato mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or until serving time. Just before serving, toss the salad and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. At this point the bread should have absorbed the juice from the tomatoes and be all moist. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Tomatoes with Egg and Sausage
This Portuguese brunch recipe is a nice change from the usual eggs and bacon. You will need 2 large ripe tomatoes, preferably from your garden.

2 large ripe tomatoes, cut in half
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
chopped parsley
10 pitted black olives chopped
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
black pepper, freshly grated
dried oregano
4 fried eggs
1 Portuguese sausage (linguica, blood sausage, or chorizo) thinly sliced and fried
2 limes

Cut the tomatoes in halves. Place them with cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil. Then put it in a 375˚F preheated oven for 40 minutes. Mix the garlic, parsley, olives and bread crumbs. Season with pepper. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the mixture. Then sprinkle again with two tablespoons of olive oil. Put it all in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes. Fry the eggs and sausage slices in a little olive oil. Place a fried egg on top of each roasted tomato and put thin slices of sausage next to it. Surround the tomato and sausage slices with a few watercress leaves sprinkled with lime juice, olive oil and a little salt. Don't forget to grind black pepper and/or dried oregano on top of the eggs immediately before serving. Makes 4 servings

Portuguese Fish Stew
This is a delicious hearty rustic fish stew, the way the Portuguese would have made it.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, washed to removed interior soil and coarsely chopped
1 bulb fennel, white parts only, coarsely chopped
5 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 bay leaf
Zest of 1 orange
1 quart fish stock or water, or an 8-ounce bottle of clam juice plus 3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
Scant 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 pounds mixed white, non-oily boneless fish and shellfish, or just fish

Heat the oil in a large stockpot, add the onions and leeks, and sauté in olive oil until fostered. Add the fennel and garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add all the remaining ingredients except the fish and shellfish and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the stock is simmering, cut the fish into bite-size portions. Bring the stock back to a rapid boil, add the fish, and cook for 1 minute. Add the shellfish (if using) and continue to boil until shells open, approximately 1 minute. Shake the pan occasionally to encourage clam and mussel shells to open. If using shrimp, turn off the heat as soon as all the shrimp lose their gray translucency; any longer and they quickly become tough and overcooked. Depending on your pot and burner, this will probably be about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Portuguese Kale Soup
1 pound kale
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1 pound smoked sausage (linguica or chorizo)
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 quarts chicken broth or a combination of beef and chicken
3 pounds peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (I use 1 15-ounce can,drained and rinsed)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Strip the leaves from washed kale, and cut diagonally into wide slices. You should end up with 6 to 8 cups of lightly packed kale. Wash, peel, and chop potatoes, and keep in cold water. Prick sausage; blanch in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes to release fat. Drain; cut into 1/2-inch slices; set aside. In a large saucepan, saute onions, carrots, and garlic in oil and butter, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and broth, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Mash the potatoes against the side of the pot (or puree with some of the broth and return to the pot). Stir in tomatoes and kidney beans, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the kale and sausage, cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, and season to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Gaspacho - Hawaiian Style
Gaspacho - Hawaiian Style
Click on photo to view larger
Gazpacho is a classic Spanish tomato-based vegetable soup that is traditionally served cold. It is also served in neighboring Portugal where it is spelled Gaspacho. This Portuguese adaptation was created with the tastes of Hawaii, combining the best of Hawaiian summer vegetables and seasonings for a refreshing luau meal or for a 'ohana (family) picnic on the beach.

2-14.5 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
2-14.5 ounce cans tomato sauce
6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sweet maui onion, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
6 or more drops of Hawaiian Hot Chili Water, or Tabasco sauce to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Garnish with sour cream, watercress, and roasted sesame seeds

In a blender, add one and 1/2 cans of tomato sauce. Then add HALF of each of the chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber, bell pepper, celery, parsley, chives, and ALL of the garlic. Blend until almost smooth, or to desired consistency. Pour into a large non-metal, bowl. Add everything else to the container except for the garnishes, and stir to combine. Taste for additional seasoning. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. Ladle cold soup into chilled bowls and garnish with small dollops of sour cream and the top sprigs of cold watercress. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds and serve immediately with your favorite crackers on the side. Makes 8 servings, or 4 if you're hungry.

Roasted Fish with Cilantro and Cherry Tomatoes
In Portugal you would use a sea bream for this recipe, but in Hawaii, I would suggest moi. Moi is a delicious, delicate Hawaiian fish that was once reserved only for royalty, it is now farm raised on the Big Island, and available in many stores here.

2 pounds whole moi, cleaned and scaled, or other white fish
suitable for roasting in the oven: Onaga, Ono, or Opakapaka
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
16 cherry tomatoes
sprigs of cilantro
2 stalks of rosemary
olive oil
salt and peppercorns to taste

Stuff crushed garlic, rosemary and lemon wedges in the belly of the fish. To prepare the wrapper, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of an aluminum foil sheet. Place the parchment paper and foil on a cookie sheet. On top of the parchment paper sheet, place sprigs of cilantro. On top of that, place the fish, after being seasoned with salt. Sprinkle the fish with chopped garlic and sprigs of cilantro. Place the cherry tomatoes around the fish. Sprinkle with peppercorns. Sprinkle with olive oil and close the wrapper tightly. Put the cookie sheet with the fish into a preheated 400˚F oven for 40 minutes. Makes 4 serving.

Ground Pork with Long Beans & Squash
(Ginisang Kalabasa)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground pork
3 tablespoons fish sauce (Patis), or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 roma or plum tomatoes, diced and seeded (if desired)
3 tablespoons soy sauce or to taste
1/2 cup water
1 whole bunch of Asian long beans, cut or broken into 2 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 medium sized kalabasa, or butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into inch-long chunks

Heat oil in a deep sauté pan, or wok. Sauté the garlic and onions for about a 1-2 minutes. Add the ground pork and crumble the meat with a fork to prevent clumping as you brown it on medium-high heat. Season with fish sauce and black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the soy sauce and water. Bring to a boil. Cover then simmer on low heat for at least half an hour to allow the meat to absorb the flavor of the liquid. Immediately add the long beans and squash, stir and cover. Simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the beans fully cooked yet still retain some crunch. Correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve with white long grain rice (see photo above). Makes 4-6 servings.

Snow Peas & Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups snow peas, trimmed, strings removed
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/4 teaspoon sugar
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Cook first four ingredients over medium high heat for 2 minutes in a skillet or until liquid evaporates. Then add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are heated thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Serve immediately as a side dish. Makes 2 servings.

Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp
This salad is all about texture and the flavors of Southeast Asia where it is hugely popular. Green papaya salad is usually eaten with barbecue or grilled chicken and a portion of sticky rice. The dish is made from unripe green papaya, which has a firm white flesh and white seeds, and can sometime be hard to find. If you are going to make it, look for rock-hard dark green papaya without a trace of pink or yellow blush on the outside. Normally this salad is made with a lot of hot chilies, but I prefer it with just one chili in the dressing.

Ingredients for dressing:
2 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (preferably nuoc mam)
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 small thin fresh red or green Asian chili (1 to 2 inches long) or serrano chili, or to taste, seeded and chopped fine (wear rubber gloves)

Ingredients for salad:
1/2 pound small shrimp, shelled
3/4 pound green papaya, peeled, seeded, and shredded, or julienned into 2-3 inch strips 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor (about 3 cups)
1 carrot, julienned the same size as the green papaya
1/2 cup cut long beans - 1 1/2-inch-long segments (or substitute with regular green beans)
1 tomato, cut into bite-size wedges; or 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, no stems, washed well and spun dry
4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
mint or Thai basil sprigs for garnish

In a large bowl whisk together dressing ingredients until sugar is dissolved, set aside.

In a small saucepan of boiling salted water cook shrimp 45 seconds to 1 minute, or until cooked through. In a colander drain shrimp and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Halve shrimp horizontally. Add shrimp, papaya, carrot, beans, tomatoes, and cilantro to dressing, tossing well. Salad may be made 2 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. Serve salad sprinkled with chopped peanuts, garnish with a sprig of mint and Thai basil. Makes 4-6 servings. Note: It is important to julienne the papaya, carrots and long beans as thin as possible, otherwise this salad can be a challenge on your jaws.

"Mamma Mia" Marinara Sauce
I love this sauce. I make it whenever I have an abundance of vine ripened tomatoes, or I use canned crushed tomatoes, then freeze the sauce for later use. This is a must have recipe that I am sure you will love on pasta, meatball sandwiches, for pizza sauce, in a fish stew, etc. So good it's ono! If you live on Moloka'i, you can buy fresh basil and tomatoes at Kumu Farms.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely shredded
1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste
sugar if needed, to your taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions, garlic and salt, saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Stir in the basil leaves and season with parmesan cheese. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with sugar, salt and pepper, if needed. Note: This sauce makes 2 quarts, and can be made a day ahead of time then reheated. The sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months.

Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo is basically a Mexican salsa that I like to serve right in the middle of a ripe avocado, served with a spoon. Naturally it also goes well on fish tacos, fajitas, burritos, roast pork, or with grilled fish or shrimp. Somehow Pico de Gallo sounds sexier than salsa.

4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium red or white onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more if you like
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped finely
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes and onion. Gently toss to mix. Add the chopped cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno. Pour-in the lime juice and sprinkle with salt. Mix well. Makes about 3 cups.

Tuna Stuffed Tomato Salad
A great tasting summer tomato is mandatory for this classic tuna stuffed tomato salad.

Tuna Stuffed Tomato Salad
Click on photo to view larger 
1-7 ounce can solid white albacore tuna
1/4 cup Best mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons dried dill, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large ripe tomatoes
2 slices of iceberg lettuce
2 cucumber slices quartered
chopped cucumber to garnish plates

In a small bowl, mix together tuna, mayo, celery, capers, 1 tablespoon dill, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon lime juice. Take a head of cold iceberg lettuce and cut two 1/2 inch slices across the middle of the head. Carefully place one slice on each of 2 dinner plates. Season the lettuce with the remaining salt, pepper, lime juice, and olive oil.

Remove the stem part of the tomatoes with a knife. Cut the tomatoes into sections, but leave about 1/2 inch uncut at the bottom of the tomato to keep the tomato slices together. Place one cut tomato on the center of the lettuce slice. Fill the tomatoes with the tuna salad. Garnish the top of the tuna salad with a cucumber slice that has been cut into quarters, then garnish the plates with the remaining cucumber pieces. Finally, sprinkle the plates with the remaining dried dill. Makes 2 main course servings.

No comments: