It’s the time of year when anyone in your office who has a garden is bringing in the surplus of their harvest for their co-workers to pick through. The most likely item to be offered? Undoubtedly a tomato. Although it may seem rather plain, the humble tomato is both a nutritional dynamo and a key ingredient in numerous types of cuisine.
First of all, fresh tomatoes are a great source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium. Potassium and vitamin A are of particular importance, as they’re commonly under-consumed by Americans.
Like many fruits and vegetables, tomatoes are mostly water – 95%, to be exact. Rumors of tomatoes being a “high-sugar” plant food are untrue, as an entire large tomato is only 20-25 calories.
Speaking of fruits and vegetables, which is a tomato? The answer is both. Botanically speaking, a tomato is a fruit, as is any edible product of a plant that contains seeds. Of course, from a nutrition perspective we consider a tomato a vegetable due to its lower sugar content.
Perhaps you first think of the tomato’s complementary role in pizza or pasta sauce, but I encourage you to consider giving the tomato a more prominent role on your plate – especially when you have easy access to fresh, flavorful varieties. Compared to most other fruits and vegetables, a tomato’s “umami” flavor stands out – this word is used to describe the savory flavor more often found in meats. For this reason, the flavor of a tomato is a great fit as the centerpiece of a dish.
One easy combination is caprese, an Italian standby that combines tomato with basil, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Whether in a wrap, salad, or otherwise prepared, this combo – which features the colors of the Italian flag – is delicious.
Another option is shakshuka. A dish of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origin, shakshuka combines tomato with onions, peppers, and other vegetables in a stew. Most commonly, eggs are then poached on top of the dish to complete the meal. Some preparations vary the ingredients, as in Tunisia where the dish combines artichoke, potatoes, and broad beans. Here’s a dietitian-tested version of shakshuka that’s a delicious (and Instagram-friendly) way to use those extra tomatoes from your garden:
50-60 minutes prep and cook
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
6 fresh tomatoes
2 red peppers (sweet), chopped
1-2 hot peppers, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup zucchini, cut into small cubes
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Sauté the onion in oil in large cast iron pan or griddle with raised edges. Slice tomatoes (4-6 slices per tomato) and add to pan. Cook on low-medium heat for 15 minutes, with pan partially covered.
Add peppers, zucchini, and spices. Cook for 12-15 additional minutes on low heat with the lid halfway on pan, stirring frequently. Zucchini and peppers should be soft when cooked.
Crack each egg on top of the hot tomato mixture in a separate place. Cover and continue cooking on low heat until the eggs are cooked to the desired firmness, 5-7 minutes.