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Tomato, a delicious spring-summer vegetable

Wiki Spanish Food editorial team

This food needs no presentation, as it's consumed all over the world. This vegetable is round, wide, and flattened on each end (although this depends on the variety) and is an intense red color when it's very ripe. Its flesh is tasty, juicy and succulent, and ranges in flavor from acidic to sweet.

The tomato's arrival in Europe completely transformed cooking across the continent. This vegetable dates back to the pre-Inca period, and appeared in Spain in 1540, since which time it has formed the basis for countless dishes. It is very nutritious as it is very high in carotene, high in carbohydrates, and very low in fat.

In Mexico and Peru, the tomato has traditionally been considered a good luck vegetable; as a result, tomato, or at least tomato juice, is included in the various dishes served at weddings.

The authentic tomatoes eaten by the Aztecs was not red, but green, and had a much stronger flavor than those that made their way to Europe. Accordingly, they were generally used as condiments, along with chili pepper, to prepare spicy sauces.  

Guardian of the Mediterranean Diet

The tomato is a key ingredient in salads, extremely versatile in cooking, and a guardian of a gastronomically impeccable diet. Production has been abundant in Spain for several centuries, especially along the east and southern coasts, and also in the Canary Islands. However, the tomato is currently grown throughout mainland Spain and on the islands as well.        

Like many other vegetables, tomatoes eventually came to be mass produced, with the result that many varieties became available to meet consumer demand but which, in many cases, lack the aroma and flavor of traditional tomatoes.

However, some very special tomatoes did come to market, such as Raf, Kumato, cherry, and pear, which aim to recover many of the qualities of the original tomatoes. The first Spanish tomato with a Protected Geographic Indication (PGI), the Tomate de La Cañada, is grown near Cabo de Gata-Nijar natural park, in Almería. They are one of the best tomatoes in Spain, with four different varieties of varying flavors and textures.

A simple, unbeatable recipe

The tomato has innumerable uses in the kitchen. Many people prefer a recipe that makes for the perfect appetizer: raw, chopped and dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt and vinegar. Tomato is fantastic as a garnish and in salad, but it's also outstanding when cooked, roasted, fried, pressed and even puréed. Canned tomatoes offer many possibilities, and cold Spanish soups like gazpacho, salmorejo and porra antequerana would be impossible to make without them.

To some extent, tomato sauce has transformed cooking in both Spain and Italy, where its combination with pasta was already very popular in Naples in the second half of the 18th century, later extending to northern Italy and the rest of Europe.

As for the use of tomatoes in cooking, RAMON FREIXA, at his elegant restaurant in Madrid's Salamanca neighborhood, serves one of his most successful creations: El Estudio del Tomate 2014, a dish with several unique tomato preparations. Another creative chef, Eneko Atxa, of AZURMENDI in Larrabetzu (Biscay), includes a delicious vegetable salad over tomato emulsion on his menu. In Córdoba, BODEGA CAMPOS supports one of the greatest recipes with tomato—salmorejo—which is served with egg and Ibérico ham. A popular dish at EL CHURRASCO is crunchy eggplant with salmorejo. At TABERNA PONCIO, in Seville, it's served with grated cheese and salted tuna, while ARTE DE COZINA brings back age-old recipes with its not-to-be-missed porra antequerana and its delicious porra blanca with tomato and picadillo (minced ingredients, such as hard-boiled egg, ham and small pieces of crispy bread). We recommend LA COSTA in El Ejido, headed by José Álvarez, for a wonderful off-season dish featuring tomatoes.  

  

ADDRESSES

RAMON FREIXA. Claudio Coello 67. Tel.: 917 818 262. Madrid

AZURMENDI. Barrio Legina.  Tel.: 944 558 866.  Larrabetzu.  Bizkaia

BODEGA CAMPOS. Los Lineros 32. Tel.: 957 497 500. Córdoba

EL CHURRASCO. Romero, 16. Tel.: 957 290 819. Códoba

TABERNA PONCIO. Ximénez  Enciso, 33. Tel.: 954 460 717. Sevilla

ARTE DE COCINA. Calzada 29. Tel.: 952 840 014. Antequera.  Málaga

LA COSTA. Bulevar de El Ejido, 48. Tel.: 950 481 777. El Ejido. Almería

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11/12/2014