By Elizabeth Holm
Every spring, I anxiously await the first fresh tomatoes from the local farmer’s market so I can make my all-time favorite meal – salmon and asparagus with fresh tomato salsa. I discovered this combination about 25 years ago and have been serving it ever since for dinner parties, outdoor lunches and many family dinners. Not only does it taste absolutely amazing, but it is incredibly quick and easy and looks as if you have been laboring in the kitchen all day.
From a nutrition perspective, we could focus on any of the many ingredients of this meal, but I want to specifically mention the health benefits of the tomato. The most abundant compound in tomatoes is lycopene, a carotenoid known to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and various cancers. Lycopene is an antioxidant that protects our cells and may even reduce the risk of severe sunburn.
The redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains; and the concentration is the greatest in the tomato skin. Interestingly, the absorption of lycopene is dependent on an adequate amount of fat in the meal. Thus, adding olive oil to tomato salads and sauces increases the availability of lycopene. Tomatoes are also a fantastic source of Vitamin C, Potassium and Folate. Rather than an apple a day in the summer, we should all aim for a tomato a day.
When making fresh salsa, there is always the question of whether to skin the tomatoes. Removing the skin gives a smoother texture to the salsa, but it is unnecessary and, as mentioned above, you lose some of the nutritional value. I only use skinned tomatoes when I want it to be fancy – most of the time I simply chop up the tomatoes. To skin a tomato, put it in boiling water for 30 seconds and the skin will easily slide off with your fingers.
This fresh tomato salsa tastes great served with chips, scrambled eggs, on a green salad or over grilled salmon and asparagus. It can keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, so make it often this summer and enjoy. A delicious way to eat a tomato a day.
Elizabeth Holm is a registered dietitian and nutritionist in private practice in Alexandria. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2 to 3 tomatoes, skinned if desired and chopped
- ½ orange pepper
- chopped ½ yellow pepper
- chopped ½ red onion
- chopped 1 clove garlic
- minced ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2-3 T chopped fresh basil
- 1 T white wine vinegar
- 1 T olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
Mix ingredients together and serve.