The Ingredient: Tomatoes
The health benefits of tomatoes are well talked about these days; it’s all about the lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps to fight the formation of cancer cells and flushes the body of dangerous free radicals. It is known to be particularly combative against cancer cells associated with breast and prostate cancer. Lycopene also helps break down LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as helping to protect skin cells against dangerous UV rays.
It is important to note that while all tomatoes are unquestionably good for you, in this era of multi-hued heirloom varieties, all tomatoes are not created equal. Lycopene is the very thing that makes red tomatoes red, and thus it is not found in the beautiful yellow and green varieties. Likewise, red tomatoes contain about three times as much vitamin C as other varieties, so while it is lovely to mix up the color palate on your plate, there is something to be said for staying tried and true to the pretty red tomato.
It’s a glorious thing when something that tastes so good is so good for you, too.
The Recipe: Simple Tomato Sauce
How many of us make tomato sauce from scratch? Like so many other sauces and condiments from salsa to nut butter, we’ve grown accustomed to selecting our tomato sauce from a line-up of jars on the grocery store shelf. Now that we are moving into summer, though, rather than pining for tomatoes, soon we’ll be trying to find ways to use them up. Homemade sauce is not as hard it as sounds.
This recipe is straight out of Alice Waters’ latest cookbook, In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart. It is simple and beautiful. Give it a shot!
To peel the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and have a bowl of ice water ready. Drop in the tomatoes one at a time into the boiling water for only about 15 to 30 seconds—just long enough to loosen the skin. Scoop them out of the pot and drop them in the ice water to prevent cooking. Remove from the ice water and use a paring knife to cut out the core at the stem and slip off the skins. To seed them, cut in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds with your fingers. Be sure to work over a boil with a strainer to catch the juice!
4 pounds ripe tomatoes
8 to 10 garlic cloves
½ cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
Dried chili flakes
Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes, reserving the juice. Peel and chop the garlic. Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and add the garlic. When the garlic begin to sizzle and become fragrant, add the tomatoes, juice, bay leaves, a big pinch of chili flakes, and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes or until thickened. Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning: add more salt or chili flakes as desired. If you find the sauce too acidic, add some sugar. For a smooth sauce, run it through a food mill. Enjoy!