My students and those who have heard me lecture or teach commonly hear the mantra, “Fresh is best.” However, there is one exception that baffles many including myself – Tomatoes. Health studies have consistently demonstrated the numerous benefits of lycopene, a phytochemical plentiful in tomatoes. Nutritional studies present a twist: You get more lycopene from ketchup or cooked tomato than you do from a fresh one. Hmmm.
Lycopene is an excellent nutrient because of its powerful antioxidant properties. Lycopene reduce oxidative stress thought to be largely responsible for its role in fighting cancer and heart disease. Research proposes that lycopene can reduce the threat of prostate and other cancers, such as those of the colon, stomach, cervix, skin, and breast, as well as help to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease by lowering LDL levels (“bad” cholesterol). Some researchers suggest that lycopene may reduce the risk of macular degenerative diseases as well. In a Harvard University study, researchers concluded that men consuming 10 servings of tomato products a week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by as much as 45 percent!
It is important to realize however, our bodies do not produce lycopene. The only way to get lycopene is to consume foods rich in lycopene. It is easy to determine which foods contain lycopene because it is a carotenoid which is a plant pigment giving certain fruits and vegetables a red hue including pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava. Generally speaking, the riper and redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains.
The question still remains, “Why are processed tomato products better than fresh tomatoes?” If you read my article on greens where I mentioned lightly steamed spinach (and other greens) is healthier for you that fresh raw spinach, the similarity lies in where the nutrients are contained. Plant cells have “cell walls.” These cell walls must be broken in order for the nutrient, lycopene in this case, to be released. Heat (or cooking processing) breaks the cell wall open making the nutrients available to be absorbed. Therefore, spaghetti sauce (homemade preferably), tomato soup, ketchup, and tomato paste are all great sources of lycopene.
One more important thing to remember is that lycopene is soluble in dietary fat. That means it is more available for absorption when consuming fats such as olive oil or cheese. You know where I’m going with this. That cheese pizza and lasagna may not be that bad after all (assuming your cholesterol levels are in the good range).
The Osso Bucco recipe my students cooked in our Advance Boot Camp this past weekend required a rustic tomato sauce. Luckily, we only used half of the rustic sauce in class. I took the remaining half and used a stick blender (which every kitchen should have to make soups) to puree the sauce. This sauce is simple, fantastic and simply fantastic. When Debbie comes home from work tonight, she will be greeted with homemade tomato soup. I’ll just add a few herbs and wine and it’s done! It is that simple. The recipe for my sauce is below.
Basic Tomato Sauce
Makes 4 cups
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 tablespoon dried
½ medium carrot, finely shredded
2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes
Kosher salt, to taste
1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8-10 minutes.
3. Add the thyme and carrot and cook for 5 minutes more or until the carrot is quite soft.
4. Using your hands, crush the tomatoes and add them with their juices.
5. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as hot cereal.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
If you do not have time to cook, or do not want to cook, give me a call and we will schedule a free consultation to assess your needs whether they be gluten-free, low-fat, or any other restrictions. If you want to plan a party and want to enjoy the event without the normal challenges of keeping things going, let me handle the cooking and logistics so you can enjoy your guests. If you are planning a special occasion, you want gluten-free cooking lessons and meal planning, or you want a no-hassle outdoor grilling party poolside, give me a call. I offer a variety cooking lessons ranging from basic fundamentals for adults and children to classic French, Mexican and Spanish cuisine to specialty diets. See http://thymeforachef.com/Classes.html for more information.
Feedback from a satisfied customer:
“Chef David has prepared many meals for our family and friends on many occasions spanning several years. Every single one has been amazing. This includes breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Meals with no special requirements in the beginning, and more recently gluten-free meals due to a new dietary restriction in our family. Let me tell you, Chef David’s gluten-free meals do not taste gluten-free. Think of the most expensive restaurant, the most delicious meals you’ve ever had – that’s what he prepares. And gluten-free!
We’re not talking about casseroles or pre-cooked meals here, we’re talking about a professional chef who comes to our house and prepares a full and balanced meal with fresh ingredients. In addition, gluten-free desserts that are better than most of the regular desserts we have had. And you can tell that he loves what he is doing.
Chef David hand-selects the ingredients, meat and vegetables and always surprises with a new creation that tastes better than the last. He is knowledgeable about special diets and even counseled us on our own gluten-free food selection and cooking for our family. Let Chef David cook for you once, you’ll be very glad you got onto his calendar. Of course, then you’ll be like us – wanting him to come back and cook for us again. Soon.”
Peter S., Marketing Director, Gilbert, AZ
Until next time, make everyday a celebration of the small miracles in your life.
Thyme for a Chef, LLC