Chilled tomato treat

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The Japanese make a big deal out of a ripe tomato. They will serve it unadorned, just with a sprinkling of salt over the fruit.

It makes for a great treat. The salt enhances the flavour of the fruit, rendering it rich and full-tasting, despite the spartan presentation.

But of course, they will use the momotaro tomato, which is one of the best tomatoes around when eaten fresh. It is sweet and tangy, clinching top place at several tomato-tasting contests.

 

The Italians may dispute this, of course. They consider their San Marzano, a plum tomato, to be one of the best.

And they will most likely make a caprese salad with it. Sliced tomatoes are topped with fresh basil and mozzarella cheese, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Even if you cannot find perfect tomatoes in the supermarket, you can always improve the taste of ordinary tomatoes just by ripening them.

I leave them out in a basket on the window sill, where they can catch the sunshine, and it is fascinating to see them turning rosy red as the days pass. They become sweet and juicy, perfect for eating raw.

The sweet vinegar dressing in this recipe also improves whatever tomato you have, though of course, it is better if you choose a ripe one in the first place.

The tomato is peeled, then marinated in this vinegar dressing and served chilled, topped with crushed sesame seeds and a little chopped onion.

It is simple but refreshing.

Strangely, the vinegar dressing makes a tomato taste like one of the best around.

It was served as a starter in a meal I had in Hokkaido, Japan.

I worked out a recipe for it as I think it offers yet another delicious (and easy) way to eat tomatoes.

And we should eat tomatoes at every chance we get, for it is one of the healthiest foods around.

Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids or colourful plant pigments that are powerful antioxidants. They are alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and yes, lycopene, probably the most well-known of antioxidants associated with the humble tomato.

These high-powered antioxidants can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease.

For instance, a diet rich in tomato-based products may help to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a study from The University of Montreal in Canada.

Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral most of us do not get enough of.

There is yet another impressive finding: researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States, who followed more than 39,000 women for seven years, found that consuming oil and tomato-based products - particularly tomato and pizza sauce - results in cardiovascular benefits.

RECIPE

Marinated tomatoes with crushed sesame

(Serves two to four)

INGREDIENTS

4 ripe tomatoes

Half a small onion, peeled and finely chopped

Half cup toasted white sesame seeds

Mint leaves, for garnishing

Shredded nori seaweed, for garnishing

DRESSING

1 cup white rice vinegar

2 tbs light soya sauce

6 tbs fine white sugar

2 tsp salt or to taste

METHOD

Using a sharp knife, cut a cross at the bottom of each tomato. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and when the skin curls up at the cut, peel it off under cool running water.

Chill the peeled tomatoes in the fridge.

In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and chill it.

Peel and finely chop half an onion. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted sesame seeds.

About half an hour before serving, pour the dressing over the peeled tomatoes and return the fruit, covered, to the fridge.

To serve, place one or two marinated tomatoes on a plate, top with a teaspoon of chopped onion. Dress the dish with a tablespoon of marinade or more, if you like.

Scatter some ground sesame and shredded black seaweed over the tomato. Add a mint leaf as garnish. Serve at once.

 
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