Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The mighty tomato

The Tomato, a native plant of South America, was introduced to India, by the sea faring Portuguese sometime in the 16th Century. Since then, the Tomato has become all pervasive in our food.

As a matter of fact, all the major world cuisine, be it Italian, Mughalai, Punjabi, Mexican, the various South Indian cuisines, all use tomato. To my mind the only cuisine that tomato has not touched is the mighty Chinese with all its regional variations. Yes, a few stray dishes like Sweet Sour Pork uses Tomato Ketchup but, tomato as an ingredient is largely missing in Chinese food. So much so, that even with the strong Indian influence that Chinese food has in India, tomato has still not made any inroads as an ingredient.

Tomato is one of India’s biggest crops after potato and sweet potato and India is one of the world’s larger tomato producers. Despite this, the quality of Tomato in India is rather poor and the variety is almost nonexistent. It’s only hybrids one gets here which are largely flavourless and rather watery.

While in London a visit to Borough Market got me thinking. Several varieties of Tomato were on sale, in myriad shapes colours and sizes. This ranges from the marble sized cherry tomato to the almost cannon ball sized beefsteak tomatoes. Colours range from the usual red to green, yellow, purple and more. Goaded by HRH, I would buy myself some assorted tomato and hand carry them back home. After much deliberation we picked 4. An heirloom, a yellow, a couple of golden and a tiger striped. I put these in my handbag and carried them thru security and into Bharat. I was carrying contraband. The customs form sternly tells you to declare if you are carrying any fruit of vegetable. Gosh that was a victory.

The hoard. 

With such good tomato, we thought the best way to eat them would be raw, in a tomato salad with freshly baked crusty bread. A tomato salad is all about good tomato, so with my hoard we were confident that we would have a delightful dinner.

The recipe is dead simple. Slice the tomato and place them in a flat plate. Lightly salt the Tomato. Make a simple French Dressing which you spoon over the tomato. Scatter a few thinly sliced onion rings and some freshly torn basil leaves. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for about an hour. During this time the salt and the dressing will have worked their magic and the Tomato would have released their juices into the plate. After an hour eat the salad with some crusty bread. I guarantee that you will sop up every bit of the delicious juices. Using Indian tomato is not a bad idea. They would also work reasonably well.

The salad with basil chiffonade

The salad with a basil leaf garnish

A simple, tasty and cheap dish. Great for a light supper.

Here is recipe for a simple French Dressing

Less than 1/2 clove garlic minced [I did not use this]
1 tablespoon white vinegar
tablespoon Dijon mustard
tablespoons warm water
tablespoons olive oil
Salt pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk till blended.  

1 comment:

  1. i mourn the fact that the variety of tomato sucks here. i don't understand why all these other beautiful varieties aren't grown and i have sleepless nights dreaming about late-summer tomoatos that were grown in my backyard in America.