By Ali Lopez
Have you noticed all the beautiful tomatoes at the farmer’s market and in the produce section lately? Or maybe you are lucky enough to be growing some in your backyard. September produce is so wonderful as it benefits from the still-warm, sunny days and a bit more rain, yielding loads of delicious flavor. This week I have decided to share a few of my favorite ways to indulge in those late summer/early fall tomatoes.
I always look forward to tomatoes in August and September because that is really the only time of the year I will eat them. I just can’t eat a January tomato. The flavor is just not there. But in the summer and fall, tomatoes are pretty much perfect, bursting with the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. And we have so many varieties to choose from these days with all the beautiful heirlooms. A perfect tomato really only needs a sprinkling of good salt to make me happy. But when I really want to go wild, I make a perfect BLT… and what is my perfect BLT? Well, of course there is avocado involved.
2 slices of really good whole grain bread (my favorite is Pleasanton Bakery)
1 perfect local heirloom tomato
2 (or more) slices of cooked, crisp really good quality bacon (best from your local farmer)
Butter lettuce or Romaine lettuce leaves (again, from your local farmer or your own garden)
Good sea salt or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Avocado (not yet grown locally in Michigan… but I can dream)
Take your bread and toast it lightly. Spread a generous amount of perfectly ripe avocado on both sides of the bread. Place your bacon strips on one side of the bread. Top that with as many slices of tomato that you need so you get tomato in every bite. Sprinkle with salt and grind some pepper on them. Add your lettuce leaves and then top with the other slice of bread. Bite. Smile. Repeat.
Another favorite and simple way to eat tomatoes is to make a really quick and delicious pasta sauce.
1 quart of cherry tomatoes (mixed colors are best)
4 large garlic cloves, sliced in half or thirds
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
10-12 fresh basil leaves, sliced in ribbons
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet (for easiest clean up and easy pouring I line it with parchment or foil.) Toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, until they are just bursting and the garlic is softened. Toss the tomatoes with the basil leaves. Serve with your favorite type of pasta, with lots of freshly grated parmesan or dollops of soft fresh ricotta cheese (or both!)
Cherry tomatoes are my favorite for this sauce, but you can also make this with any type of tomatoes you may get — heirlooms, romas, slicers… just chop them up to the size of cherry tomatoes and roast the same way. You can also make a big batch of this pasta sauce and freeze it for a cold night in January!
And of course tomatoes are a great food for runners (and non-runners, as well!) They are a great source of B vitamins, vitamin C, A, K, folate, iron, potassium and magnesium. They are also a great source of antioxidants.
And finally, one more recipe. This is my favorite tomato soup recipe. The coconut milk is the secret ingredient. It makes it so creamy and delicious. I love to serve this with a mini grilled cheese sandwich croutons. Just make a grilled cheese sandwich or two with your favorite cheese and bread, cut it into cubes and add to the soup. Yum!
Chef Ali’s Awesome Tomato Soup
2 lbs. tomatoes (a mix of cherry tomatoes, romas and traditional are fine), rough chop
1 small onion, rough chop
5 garlic cloves
2 carrots, rough chop
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 cup coconut milk
10 fresh basil leaves, sliced in ribbons
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Put tomatoes, onions, garlic and carrots on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for about an hour. Check halfway through and toss if needed. If you have an immersion blender add all the ingredients (and any extra liquid) to a pot and blend. Otherwise add to a blender with a little water or broth and puree. Once you have the vegetables pureed, add the broth and the coconut milk and basil, heat the soup for a few minutes then check for salt and pepper.
Have a fueling question for Ali? Post it below in the comments section or email MRG with your healthy-eating questions at heather [at] michiganrunnergirl [dot] com
Ali will answer your questions in upcoming columns here on MRG. You can read her post about the Power of Smoothies, here » She’s also written about superfoods and shares a great recipe for kale salad here »
You can listen to a conversation about running and eating between Ali and Heather on a recent MRG podcast episode here »