I recently had the pleasure of attending a week-long yoga intensive with one of my favorite teachers. The yoga exceeded expectations; unfortunately the food did not. In much my usual style, I accommodated my mildly high-maintenance food habits by buying whatever veggies I could find at the one tiny market, about 500 meters from the chateau. They had a small selection of the season’s ripest and freshest vegetables and fruits, which around this time of year is mostly Cucumbers, bright red juicy Tomatoes, and stone fruit. The shop also carried an exceptional salt from the region, which bridged the Côte d’Azur and Côte de Provence.
Every day at lunch and dinner I waited to see what the chef had prepared, then pulled from my veggie stash under the table to re-create and doctor what she had made, more to my liking. The Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Salt got me through the week and actually were the perfect trio to expand on whatever was offered. This exercise reminded me of true Mediterranean cooking, where the players are so simple, but with a twist – the dish becomes entirely different. Cucumber and Tomato with Onion becomes an Israeli salad. The addition of Onion, Pita Bread and Zatar turns it into a Fattuoush salad. Parsley, Tomatoes, Cucumber and Bulgur become the base for Tabouli, and so on. Simple, yet all vastly different dishes.
The Tomatoes were the star this week. I did everything I could think of doing with them while sitting at a dinner table. The best and easiest part about this was, it’s August and August is Tomato month. No matter where you find them, a Tomato tastes like what a Tomato should taste like. Whether on its own or as part of an ensemble cast of veggies, it will shine.
The Health Benefits
The health benefits of the tomato are vast and interesting. Once believed a deadly nightshade, this unassuming little fruit-in-vegetable-clothes is packed with an anti-oxidant called lycopine which is highly beneficial in warding off many forms of cancer. It is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants we have, putting Green Tea & Beta Carotene to shame. Tomatoes are also filled with vitamin C, A, K and Iron. Having heard how great tomatoes are for the skin, I did an experiment of mashing up several tomatoes and making a mask out of them. I left it sitting on my face for about 10 minutes and then washed with cool water. My skin was brighter, firmer and had a nice glow. I did have a bit of a red stain for a while, but that soon disappeared.
Dried Tomatoes vs. Fresh
Sun dried tomatoes carry the same benefits as fresh tomatoes, however they are one of several indigestible fibers (Corn and Mushrooms are two others) That said, my favorite way to eat them is by blending them with olive oil, crushed red pepper and garlic – this can be kept in the fridge for weeks and used as a spread, a dip or even the starter for a dressing or another sauce. This is what I call “layering”.
Layering is method I use to mix sauces and dips with other sauces or dips or vegetables to re-create a dish in a whole new way. If you have your Tomato, Garlic & Olive Oil sitting in the fridge or frozen in cubes in the freezer you can add it to fresh Basil and more olive oil to create a pesto type sauce. And we could go on and on from there.
A Timely Plug
I will be doing a class on “layering” at the end of September in Paris – let me know if you would like more information on attending that or any of my other workshops.