Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Book Review & Pasta: "Tomatoland" and Jamie Oliver's Cherry Tomato, Caper & Balsamic Sauce with Pappardelle

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)
(Serves 4)

4 cloves of garlic
About 25 (1 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, mixed colors if possible
olive oil
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
balsamic vinegar

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.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher Andrews McMeel Universal and PTA Reader Rewards but I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.


  1. I think we've all been disappointed by tomatoes. Even naturally grown ones suffer from being chilled in the store, though cherry tomatoes seem to weather that better :) So delicious briefly cooked up.

  2. definitely have had those tasteless ones...this pasta looks wonderful!

  3. Wow - the cherry tomato, caper and balsamic sauce sounds wonderful in every way. Not to mention that pappardelle (although very hard to find) is just about my favorite shape of pasta. The perfect meal!

    Tomatoland sounds like a great read. I've given up on buying tomatoes at the market. I just wait until my Mom plants them and steal hers.

  4. I'm patiently waiting for my tomato plant to give fruit, but in the meantime must content myself with grape tomatoes. I've all but given up buying any other kind. Since I have a budding romance with capers, I will have to try this sauce of Jamie's. Pappardelle--and yours is actually that--is my favorite pasta (well, one of them). It looks delicious.

  5. I got the book as soon as it was published and it is now on my desk, next in line for reading. We are big cherry tomato consumers in our household and thankfully we can get them directly from the producer. The pappardelle you made look wonderful. I have never tried to pair cherry tomatoes and capers: I must do so. Thank you so much for your contribution to Presto Pasta Nights!

  6. Looks delicious! My cherry tomatoes plant is showing signs of wilting and just only managed to harvest about a dozen fruits! :(

  7. wow...wat a wonderful post..
    chanced upon your space while blog hopping..
    love your space..very interesting recipes..
    Am your happy follower now..:)
    do stop by mine sometime..
    Tasty Appetite

  8. The poor tomato. I refuse to buy them at any time other than summer when I can get them in the farmer's markets. Local tomatoes are just starting to appear, so when they're out in full force, I can't wait to try this! The sauce sounds delicious!

  9. I didn't grow any this year :( Lately the supermarket ones have been decent. Great looking dish, I love a sauce like that! The book sounds like a good read!

  10. I hate gorcery store tomatoes! They are always tasteless, mealy, and just plain uninteresting.

    Really need to read this entire book on tomatoes sounds right for me.

    I will be making this--have cherry tomatoes coming out of my ears!

  11. What a great way to use your cherry tomatoes. Beautiful summer dish.
    I enjoyed the book too, very informative.
    We have a growing greenhouse industry in Canada, but nothing beats tomatoes from my own garden. ☺ I just have to wait another month!


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