Killer Tomatoes

As the promise of winter begins to become a reality this month, instead of focusing on gourds and hearty winter vegetables, let’s pay homage to that fruit—yes, I said fruit—that is at its most glorious during the summer months: the tomato. My absolute favorite garden treat, the tomato perks up dishes with its uplifting and tongue-tingling flavor, as well as a stunning variety of colors. During the cold winter months of both of my pregnancies, the one craving that consistently teased me was a BLT sandwich made with fresh, juicy tomatoes. This eluded me until about mid-July, and then, when I finally did take the first bite, it was the best sandwich ever made.
       Although the BLT may be on the less complex side of the fare that this fruit graces, as a topping, the tomato can’t be beat. Probably originating in the highlands of South America, the vividly hued fruit was distributed throughout the Spanish colonies after the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and soon it became favored worldwide.1

In the kitchen
       Tomato varieties such as oxheart, beefsteak, plum, cherry and grape are incredibly popular for use in cuisine today, and the colorful fruit is known for its high lycopene content—an antioxidant present especially when cooked. The tomato is botanically a fruit, although it is nutritionally categorized as a vegetable, and is used in ketchup, sauces and pizza, as well as its many varied uses in cooking.1
       Red Mountain Spa in St. George, Utah, features a Fresh Tomato, Jicama and Cilantro Salsa, while The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois, serves a flavorful Mediterranean Chickpea, Tomato and Couscous Soup. Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow, Vermont, features Baked Tomatoes on its spa cuisine menu, and for a delicious soup recipe, see Roasted Tomato Soup by Chef Jesus Gonzalez of Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.

In the spa
       For skin care, the tomato’s cooling and astringent properties are extremely useful, along with its vitamin C content that is helpful for acne and brightening dull skin. Of course, its antioxidant and acidic properties also help to fight free radicals and balance the skin.2
       At Revive Spa in New Buffalo, Michigan, the Clear Complexion Facial utilizes tomato lycopene to help minimize blemishes while purifying and cleansing skin. A rejuvenating Tomato Wrap can be enjoyed at The Angsana Oasis Resort and Spa in Bangalore, India, and, at the Bath House Spa in New Park Manor in New Forest, Hampshire, England, the Redefine Nutritional body treatment features an aromatic exfoliation and wrap that nourishes and reconditions using tomato, pumpkin and basil extracts. At The Spa at The Westin New York at Times Square, the Rebalancing Organic Body Treatment Mediterranean Organic Veggie Wrap is a skin-soothing, firming mask that uses tomatoes to leave skin hydrated, nourished and toned, and The Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza in Cairo, Egypt, offers the Silky Hands restoring treatment that is capped off with a hand massage using a cream created from white tomato leaf, basil, olive extract and wild fruits.
       Professional skin care products are also indulging in the benefits of this crimson fruit, including Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Garlic and Tomato Masque with anti-blemish, clarifying and healing capabilities. DermaConcepts’ Environ Ionzyme C-Quence range contains lycopene for its antioxidant benefits, and Yon-Ka Paris’ Le Baume Lèvres City and Le Baume Lèvres—SPF 10 are anti-aging, phyto-repairing lip balms featuring tomato lycopene for its free radical fighting effects.

Year-round benefits 
       This summertime favorite can be used year-round in both skin care and cuisine, adding color, flavor and healthful benefits to every offering. Find a way to incorporate it into your menu, whether through delicious cuisine or free radical-fighting treatments and products. And although the sky’s the limit in regard to cuisine possibilities, don’t forget about the simple pleasures of a BLT once in awhile. 

(All accessed Sept 10, 2007)

Roasted Tomato Soup
From Jesus Gonzalez, Chef for Rancho La Puerta’s La Cocina Que Canta in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico

Makes 8 servings

2 pounds plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/8  teaspoon freshly ground pink peppercorn
Pinch of salt
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup frozen peas
12  fresh basil leaves, sliced for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Coat baking pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Bake tomatoes in prepared pan until tender—about 20–25 minutes. Remove from pan and chop.
3. In a large sauce pan, sauté onion and celery in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Puree tomato mix in blender or food processor with vegetable stock until smooth. Return to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.
5. Add peas and cook 5 minutes longer.
6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced basil leaves, if desired.

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