Fresh Tomato Salsa

School is just around the corner and for a lot of people, that means this is the busiest time of the year with all that getting kids ready entails. And it’s especially true if you have a garden, since August is prime time for ripe produce. I can’t speak for the former, but the latter is something else.

Tomatoes are one of those vegetables that can overwhelm a gardener when they turn from green to red. I have the luxury of time, so canning juice, whole tomatoes and salsa can be done at my leisure. (See story at www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/242888/.) But not everyone has that option.

For those who like salsa, here is a go-to recipe (from the American Institute for Cancer Research) for fresh tomato salsa that takes very little time. All you need is some fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and a few fresh herbs. This salsa will keep in the refrigerator for a week, and it is good enough to eat repeatedly, so making a double batch is useful.

The best choice of tomato for this recipe is the roma. Its meaty flesh makes a real nice sauce. Since there is not a lot of liquid to boil off, it cooks quickly enough for the tomatoes to still hold some shape when it is done, hence the chunky texture.

And the thing about a tomato salsa, especially one that is cooked, is that it’s loaded with lycopene, a known cancer-fighting antioxidant.

Fresh Tomato Sauce
3 pounds plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup finely chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cut thin slice off top of tomatoes. Peel tomatoes, using either serrated swivel-blade vegetable peeler or hot water method. For this method, drop 2 to 3 tomatoes at a time into large pot of boiling water until their skins crack, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer tomatoes to bowl of ice water. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull off skin. Halve tomatoes lengthwise and use your thumb to push out seeds, then your fingers to remove pulpy ribs. Chop tomatoes and set aside; there will be 6 to 7 cups.
In large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until onion starts to color, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano and stir well. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Taste sauce, adding sugar if it is too acidic. Mix in basil and cook until tomatoes have broken down to your taste, 10 to 15 minutes for chunky sauce, 12 to 15 minutes for pulpier one.
Note: Using ripe tomatoes is important. Supermarket ones usually require sitting at room temperature for 5 to 10 days to turn really red. They make a more chunky and drier sauce than local tomatoes in season because they are less juicy.
Yield: Serves 6 servings. Per serving: 1/2 cup.
Approximate nutritional analysis per ½-cup serving: 75 calories, 3 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), 12 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 3 grams dietary fiber, 19 milligrams sodium.

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