Red, green, yellow and orange; the dozens of tomatoes laid out in rows came in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
Last weekend was the annual tomato-tasting event at the Wrightstown Farmers Market in Wrightstown Township, and the market’s farmers supplied samples of dozens of varieties ranging from familiar beefsteak to exotic heirlooms.
The food purveyors also got into the act with samples of their tomato-laden wares including a tomato-corn tart from the Bucks County Cookie Company and gazpacho from Bowlface.
Visitors happily stepped up to try the many tomatoes and the different ways they were prepared. August is the height of tomato season in Bucks County and beyond, and there are plenty of tomatoes available at farms and farmers markets to sample and enjoy.
Americans love tomatoes; according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture we eat between 22 and 24 pounds a year, making tomatoes the third most popular vegetable behind potatoes and lettuce.
With an average of 35 calories in a medium-sized tomato, they are fat-free and nutritional powerhouses. That same medium-sized tomato contains half the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and about 20 percent of the recommended vitamin A. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, flavonoids and other phytochemicals that help fight cancer.
Pasta sauce is one way to turn fresh tomatoes into a meal. This recipe is from cookieandkate.com and was adapted from recipes from Gourmet and “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook.”
1½ pounds ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 very small garlic clove (or ½ medium clove), pressed or minced
½ pound whole grain thin spaghetti or angel-hair pasta or rotini, fusilli or penne
Optional but recommended:
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1. Core and coarsely chop two-thirds of the tomatoes. Halve the remaining tomatoes down the middle and discard the tough top part where the tomatoes met the stem, if it exists. Rub the cut sides of the tomatoes against the large holes of a box grater set in a large bowl. Leave the tomato pulp in the bowl and discard the skin.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, several twists of freshly ground black pepper and the pressed garlic to the bowl. Mix well. Let the mixture marinate while you cook the pasta.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and then cook the pasta just until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
4. Drain the pasta, then immediately return it to the pot. Pour in all of the tomato sauce and a small splash (about ¼ cup) of the pasta cooking water. Cook over medium-low heat for about 1 to 2 minutes, tossing often (gentle now!), just long enough for the tomatoes to soften a bit and for the starchy tomato water to coat the pasta.
5. Remove from heat and toss with (optional) Parmesan and (mandatory) basil. Serve immediately.