Fun with Tomatoes and In-Flight CateringAugust 14, 2014 by Saverio Mongelli
Tomatoes are an antioxidant-packed fruit that comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. They can be used to dress up a plate or serve as the main ingredient in a variety of breakfast, lunch or dinner options. Many cultural dishes from Italy, Greece and countries in the Middle East feature tomatoes that are served with a variety of cheese and other ingredients.
The term “breakfast tomatoes” refers to plum tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes that are sliced in half lengthwise, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper; topped with Parmesan cheese and placed into a broiler. This preparation method for tomatoes was popularized as an integral component of a proper English breakfast along with bacon, mushrooms, black Pudding, eggs and toast. This is the type of tomato you will receive when placing an in-flight catering order for breakfast tomatoes, unless you specific otherwise.
Another option that goes well with breakfast is sautéed teardrop tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. These are smaller tomatoes that come in a variety of colors and are better sautéed instead of sliced and grilled. For this type of preparation, the tomatoes are sautéed in olive oil at high temperatures until the skin cracks from the heat. This is followed by seasoning the tomatoes with kosher salt, cracked black pepper and fresh herbs. This is a great alternative to traditional breakfast tomatoes, but should be specified when placing a catering order.
If you are serving an Italian antipasto during lunch, sun-dried, air-dried or oven-roasted tomatoes will complement the flavors of the cured meat, cheese and vegetables found in this dish. Smaller, plum-style tomatoes work best with antipasto. Oven-roasted tomatoes are slow-roasted for a longer period of time, between six and eight hours, at a lower temperature (140 F [60 C] to 150 F [66 C]). When oven-roasted tomatoes are done cooking they become a bit crispy from being dried for an extended amount of time. After the drying process is complete, the tomatoes are cut into thin slices and seasoned with salt and pepper. Roma, or a comparable variety of tomato, work well for this preparation method. These can also be incorporated in a pasta entrée.
Roma or plum tomatoes can be pureed into a charred tomato spread or “tapenade” (puree of charred vegetables that have been cooked down). Tapenades and spreads can both be used on crostinis or proteins. This is a great accompaniment or appetizer that can also be used as spread or dip for vegetables. Another idea for a light meal is to add heirloom tomatoes to a salad. Heirlooms are great raw, and go well with Mediterranean ingredients like olives and feta cheese. These tomatoes can be found in a variety of colors from purple to green to red.
For dinnertime, an authentic Italian tomato sauce can be created from scratch by utilizing plum tomatoes. The first process is to remove the skin by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water. Next, the tomatoes are pushed through a mill to remove the seeds. The juices and pulp are then cooked down to make a fresh tomato sauce.
Tomatoes are versatile, easy to work with and are a healthy addition to many meals. The key is to select the right variety of tomato and preparation method. Whether raw, sliced or pureed, tomatoes will add color and flavor while adding minimal calories.
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