You see it tempting you... that big, bright red, perfectly shaped tomato sitting in the produce aisle of the grocery store. You imagine biting into it, the sweet flavor exploding in your mouth and bringing you the taste of a hot summer's day, but when you finally do taste it you are bitterly disappointed--it is plastic in texture and somewhat tasteless. Investigative journalist and tomato crusader Barry Estabrook gives us all the reasons why that tomato you purchased doesn't taste or feel like a tomato should in his new book "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit."
The book, an expanded version of Estabrook's James Beard Award-winning article for Gourmet magazine written in 2009, is a well-written exposé of the giant agribusiness system producing these industrialized tomatoes and robbing them of their taste as well as their nutritional value. The author was inspired to write his original article and subsequently the book, when he found himself behind a large truck on a Florida freeway, watching what he thought were green Granny Smith apples fly off the back. Instead of the expected apples, a closer look found tomatoes, "so plasticine and so identical they could have been stamped out by a machine."
Estabrook looks at the tomato (the second-most-popular produce item next to lettuce), from it's origins in the arid climates of South America to it's current industrialized state in Florida, where 90% of the tomatoes sold in the United States are grown. Along the way he looks at the way that the tomato has been stripped of flavor and nutrition as well as the atrocities of the environmental and human costs of this multi-billion dollar business, and how a few people are working against big business, much like David versus Goliath to fix the problems.
Estabrook keeps the book's 240 pages interesting and makes it approachable to the average reader / consumer. The message is clear, frightening and well worth reading if you are interested in sustainability, health, our impact on the planet and on others or even if just want a good tasting tomato and can't grow your own or don't have access to a farmers market.
I am "lucky to live Hawaii" where we can get wonderful locally grown tomatoes throughout the year. To celebrate the beauty of "real" tomatoes (these are baby cherry tomatoes from the North Shore Farms booth at the KCC Farmers Market that are so incredibly sweet and delicious, I eat them by the handful like candy), I wanted a simple, fresh sauce and I chose a delectable Cherry Tomato, Caper and Balsamic Sauce from Jamie Oliver.
Cherry Tomato, Caper, and Balsamic Sauce with Pappardelle
From "Jamie's Food Revolution" (page 267)
4 cloves of garlic
About 25 (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, mixed colors if possible
dried oregano (I used about 1 Tbsp fresh oregano)
2 tablespoons capers, drained (from a jar, in brine)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a pat of butter
Peel and finely slice the garlic. Halve the tomatoes. Put a frying pan on medium heat and add 2 good lugs of olive oil. Add your garlic, a big pinch of oregano, and the capers. When lightly golden, add your tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir. Add the butter and 2 big splashes of balsamic vinegar and stir again. Leave the sauce to bubble away for around 3 to 5 minutes. The tomatoes will soften and make a lovely rich sauce.
Serve hot, with your chosen fish or meat, or stir into hot cooked pasta.
Notes/Results: So simple and so incredibly good. The sauce with the balsamic and a bit of butter is heavenly with the juicy fresh tomatoes cooked in it, and the salty capers add a nice tang to the dish. Since we are "Getting Fresh with Jamie" this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I used fresh oregano from my herb garden instead of dried called for in the recipe. I served the sauce with some fresh pappardelle and it was perfect--and fast and easy too. This will be a definite repeat dish.
You can check out how the other IHCC peeps got fresh by checking out the post here and following the links.
I am also sending this to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by the lovely Simona from Briciole this week. Simona will be rounding up a bunch of delicious pasta dishes on her blog on Friday.