Tomato Inspiration – What’s your favorite vegetable and where do you find it?

Post by Guest Blogger Liz Layton, GIC

After looking at my food budget the other day it was obvious I’ve been spending way too much on takeout.  Time for some home cooking.  Sigh.  Grocery shopping is a chore, probably because stocking the fridge and pantry involves making a shopping list, which means having a menu.  My repertoire of healthy recipes that actually taste good is limited.  And I don’t like complicated recipes that call for a lot of ingredients. Luckily a friend shared his recipe for sofrito, a simple, tasty combination that can be the base for different dishes. 

To make Hector’s sofrito you need olive oil, onions or garlic, fresh tomatoes, and a pinch of salt or Mrs. Dash seasoning. Sautee the onions or garlic in olive oil, add chopped tomatoes, and cook for 15-20 minutes until it’s a thick, spreadable sauce. 

Toss sofrito with whole grain pasta and freshly grated cheese for a quick and easy dinner. Stir it into broth with carrots, potatoes, cooked chicken, and your favorite herbs to make soup you can take to work for lunch. Tastes even better the next day. Mornings, spread sofrito on toast with a fried egg on top – breakfast pizza!

Tomatoes get their color from lycopene, an antioxidant that can help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.  And unlike other nutrients, lycopene is actually intensified by cooking.

Tomatoes are the taste of summer when you get them fresh from the grower.  I don’t bother with pale, no-flavor tomatoes that were wrapped in plastic for a long trip to market – even if they are cheap, tasteless tomatoes are no bargain.  Plenty of markets now carry locally grown tomatoes and it’s worth tracking down who carries the best tomatoes.  You can find local tomatoes for a price at a Whole Foods market, priced a little lower at a Johnny’s Foodmaster or a farmers market (most are open through October or November), or for really low prices try braving the crowds at the Haymarket or a Market Basket.  In some neighborhoods there are small groceries that carry fresh vegetables – have you ever been to Rosebud Farms in Malden, Salumeria Italiana in the North End, Going Bananas in the South End, or Snap Top Market in Back Bay?

Much as I love sofrito, tomato season is almost at an end, and I’m looking for some tasty and simple recipes for fall vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, beets, and potatoes.  Any suggestions?  All you cooks across Massachusetts, we’d love to hear from you and share recipes or favorite produce resources.

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