If you garden or frequent the farmers market, you can tell that the tomato season is here! It takes awhile to get those tomato plants to produce, but once they do, they usually produce an abundant supply. Vine-ripened tomatoes are so flavorful and the tomato is such a versatile food to use in our menus.
In addition to their versatility, tomatoes are a great source of many key nutrients as well. They contain Vitamin A and Vitamin C, (which are antioxidants), as well as other vitamins and minerals. They also contain lycopene, which has been shown to have a cancer protective effect. In addition, they are low in calories, fat and sodium and are a good source of fiber.
Of course, the easiest way to prepare fresh tomatoes is to just slice and eat them. They can be added to salads, tacos, pizza and sandwiches. If you want to try something a little different with your fresh tomatoes, the following is a tasty salad recipe that uses fresh tomatoes and a few other ingredients to make a zesty accompaniment to a late summer/fall meal. If you have vine-ripened tomatoes and some fresh basil in your garden, this is a quick and easy recipe that you will enjoy.
Caprese Salad (Tomato Salad)
6 medium ripe tomatoes
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
6 large fresh basil leaves (chopped)
4 Tbsp. olive oil or low fat Italian dressing
Salt to taste
Wash and then cut tomatoes into bite size pieces. Cut cheese into small, bite size pieces. Rinse off basil, pat dry and then chop. Combine tomatoes, cheese and basil. Pour the dressing or olive oil over the salad, salt to your taste. Mix lightly. Serve immediately.
As an alternate way to prepare this dish, you can cut the tomatoes and mozzarella into even slices, layer them on a serving platter, sprinkle with the basil and drizzle with the oil. This is the traditional "Caprese" salad. (Just as a side note, the name of this salad comes from the name, "Insalata Caprese," which means a salad in the style of Capri. Capri is an resort island off the coast of Italy. So it has its origins as an Italian appetizer or side dish.) However you choose to serve it, it is a quick and tasty dish to prepare and serve.
Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. You can also find nutrition tips on the blog she writes at www.averastorycenter.org.