Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Tomatoes are the star of many delicious dishes

on September 22, 2013 2:00 AM

Ketchup may be the first thing you think of when tomatoes are mentioned. But tomatoes are also the main ingredients in many other delicious meals.

“Tomatoes are incredibly versatile; buy them when in season for the best taste and texture,” said Chef Justin Timineri, executive chef and culinary ambassador, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“When in season, tomatoes are always on the top of my shopping list.”

HEALTH BENEFITS: Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene (helps prevent skin damage from UV rays), vitamin C (needed for growth and repair of body tissues) and vitamin A (helps vision and bone growth).

DID YOU KNOW? Botanically, the tomato is a fruit. However, they are legally considered a vegetable after a ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court.

HOW TO BUY: The best test for a great tomato is aroma. Smell the stem end for a strong sweet-acidic fragrance. Choose tomatoes that are plump, shiny and give slight pressure when applied.

HOW TO STORE: Tomatoes should be stored at a cool room temperature, out of their packaging and never in the refrigerator. Storing tomatoes in the refrigerator diminishes their flavor.

TOMATO CORNBREAD

Servings: 6 to 10

1 box cornbread mix

1 onion, diced small

Olive oil

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 cup Jack cheese, grated

2 large tomatoes, chopped

Follow directions on cornbread box to mix batter. Preheat oven as listed on cornbread box instructions.

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and drizzle of olive oil to cast iron skillet. Season onion with salt and pepper to taste, and cook onion until tender. Fold half of cheese into cornbread batter.

Pour cornbread batter into pan with onions. Add remaining cheese to top of cornbread mixture. Add diced tomatoes to top of cornbread mixture. Bake as directed on box. Remove from oven when golden brown and cooked throughout. Let cool slightly and serve warm.

KIDS CAN: Pour cornbread batter into pan with adult supervision.

Grown Up Alert: Have an adult help with oven.

TOMATO BASIL SOUP

Servings: 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped fine

5 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (save 4 to 6 for garnish)

3 cups low sodium vegetable stock

1/2 cup heavy cream

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Sour cream for garnish, if desired

Preheat a medium-sized stock pot over medium heat. Add olive oil to preheated pot. Carefully, add onion and garlic. Cook onions and garlic until almost translucent. Add tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, fresh basil and vegetable stock. Simmer ingredients for at least 20 minutes. Puree soup in blender or with an immersion blender. Be very careful when pureeing hot ingredients. Add cream to soup, and stir to combine. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread. Garnish with basil leaves and sour cream.

KIDS CAN: Help add the ingredients to the pot with adult supervision.

SPAGHETTI WITH MARINARA SAUCE

Servings: 8

1 large fresh tomato, crushed

1 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped (save 4 to 6 for garnish)

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, combine crushed tomato, tomato sauce, minced garlic, parsley, salt, basil and pepper. Cover. Bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer, with cover, for 30 to 45 minutes. As end of simmering time nears, cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.

Cover spaghetti with marinara sauce. Garnish with basil leaves and Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

KIDS CAN: Garnish meal.

— Fresh from Florida and Florida Specialty Crop Foundation and Family Features

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