Tomatoes are low in calories but high in flavor. A great source of vitamins A and C, tomatoes are satisfying and nutritious. Because of their high lycopene content (a photochemical that gives tomatoes their red color), these fruits may even have anti-cancer benefits. Whether you choose red, green, plum or cherry, tomatoes form the backbone of a large variety of dishes from around the world. Eaten sautéed baked, or fresh, tomatoes can give life to almost any dish.
A simple Italian tomato sauce can top pasta, sauce pizzas or coat eggplant and chicken parmesans. To create an easy, healthy sauce at home, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Toss in ½ of a finely chopped onion and a few minced garlic cloves. When onions are soft, mix in 4 to 6 chopped tomatoes or one 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes. Add ½ tsp. salt and 1 tsp. garlic powder and stir frequently until tomatoes have broken down. Before serving, stir in 2 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley and 1 tbsp. chopped basil. For a hearty vegetable sauce, toss in a handful or two of fresh baby spinach a few minutes before the sauce is done.
Italy is far from the only cuisine that relies on tomatoes. To create the base of an Indian curry, start out with the oil, onion and garlic combo above. Add in ½ tsp. turmeric powder, 1 tbsp. cumin powder, 1 tbsp. coriander powder, ½ tsp. red chili powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder and 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger. Cook the spices with the onions until the onions are brown—add a splash of vegetable broth if onions seem dry. Mix in the tomatoes and add salt to taste. Cook covered, stirring regularly and mix in chicken, tofu or vegetables. Serve over basmati rice.
Baked tomatoes are less popular than sauces, but are surprisingly delicious and easy to make. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Cut tomatoes in half and lie them cut side up on a baking sheet coated in olive oil cooking spray. Top each tomato with a sprinkle of kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, minced garlic, dried parsley and basil. Next, dust the top of each with 1/8 c. panko bread crumbs, 1/8 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese and 1/8 c. reduced fat shredded mozzarella. Spritz each with a little olive oil cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese in melted and tops are golden brown.
Fresh, ripe tomatoes are sweet and juicy and are so tasty they don’t need any “cooking.” For a refreshing side-dish, halve cherry tomatoes into a large bowl—the more colorful your mix is, the more pleasing to the eye and the stomach. Toss with freshly chopped basil, minced garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. For special occasions, cut fresh buffalo mozzarella into ½ inch cubes and mix in at the end.
To make a quick and easy fresh salsa, toss finely chopped tomatoes with minced garlic, cilantro, green onion, jalapeno and lime juice. Salt to taste and enjoy with a side of baked tortilla chips.