ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — People with diabetes often have to give up or severely limit some of the foods they are used to eating.
High-carbohydrate items like breads, rice, pasta, potatoes and other starchy foods are part of what we need to watch out for. It is, after all, not simply about sugar, but about the carbohydrates that turn into sugars in your body.
Cutting down on the carbohydrates without cutting down on the flavors means you have to use every trick in your book. Using tomatoes as a seasoning is one of those tricks.
It does not have to be difficult. Sometimes it just takes rethinking the way you cook and use the foods you have always liked in different ways.
Go beyond thinking of tomatoes as only a part of a salad, a salsa, or something to be stuffed with tuna or chicken salad. Tomatoes are a great seasoning. Think of
the effect of tomato sauce on otherwise almost tasteless pasta.
Most of the year, the tomatoes you buy at your local grocer are bland and tasteless. A great way to bring out the flavors of tomatoes is to roast them. This very simple process concentrates the flavor of the tomato. Using the roasted tomatoes gives dishes a new taste and life. Roasted, tomatoes can be used in dozens of different ways; even something as simple as a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich (on a lower-carbohydrate bread, of course). The concentrated flavors of the roasted tomatoes add a lot of zing to that old favorite.
As an ingredient in an omelet it takes eggs from boring to brilliant.
The best thing about roasting tomatoes is that you get to add herbs and spices to the tomatoes and get just the flavor you crave.
Sun-dried tomatoes (all the rage a few years ago) do exactly the same thing to the flavor, but in a different way. The tomatoes are harvested at the peak of ripeness. Then they are dried to concentrate the flavor. They can be reconstituted to be used in your dish or left in a dry state and minced to add pops of flavor to a boring vegetable like Brussels sprouts.
I don’t understand why, but grape and cherry tomatoes seem to have far more flavor than the larger varieties. Perhaps it is Mother Nature’s way of concentrating the flavors for us. Sure, they are great in a salad; but try them slightly warmed along with some sauteed zucchini as a side dish or a “fresca” (fresh) sauce to top a bowl of spaghetti squash or shirataki noodles.
Take another look at that ordinary tomato. It takes very little effort to turn a boring tomato into something extraordinary. You will surprise yourself with how good a flavor it can bring to a dish without adding a lot of carbohydrates.
Chef Ward Alper retired to Albuquerque after being a professional chef in Boston and New York City. He blogs as “The Decadent Diabetic: Taking Back My Life and Table,” thedecadentdiabetic.com.
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes or 3-4 vine ripe or cluster tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (and your doctor’s suggestion)
2 teaspoons dry basil, oregano, tarragon (alone or in combination)
Remove stem end and cut core out of the tomato.
Cut Roma tomatoes in half horizontally. Or cut vine ripened or cluster tomatoes in half across the “equator” of the tomato.
Squeeze to remove excess jelly and seeds.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried basil or oregano or tarragon or all of them combined.
Place on baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, rotating the tray after 10 minutes.
Sprinkle the cooked tomatoes with crumbled blue cheese or crumbled Feta cheese or Parmesan cheese. Serve hot or at room temperature.
BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH SHALLOTS & SUN-DRIED TOMATO
Net carbohydrates: 6
¾ pound fresh Brussels sprouts
1 medium shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, grated
4 sun-dried tomato halves thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Remove the outer leaves from the sprouts. Cut a shallow cross in the stem end of each sprout. Blanch in sweetened water (water with salt and 2 teaspoons sweetener) for four minutes. Immediately shock the sprouts in iced water. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. You can stop here and continue the recipe later.
Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the shallots, sun-dried tomato and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about one minute. Add the Brussels sprouts and the salt and pepper. Cook over medium high heat until the sprouts start to caramelize. Plate and dust with grated Parmesan cheese. For an extra golden color and crunch, run the sprouts under the broiler for a few seconds.
FRESH ZUCCHINI AND TOMATO SAUTÉ
Net carbohydrates: 8 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, sliced or 3 scallions, sliced
3 medium zucchini
Salt and pepper to taste (and your doctor’s advice)
½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Grated cheese for topping (Parmesan, Swiss or Asiago)
Cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half in half lengthwise. Cut each quarter in half or thirds depending on how fat the quarter is. You want even sized pieces. Cut the tomatoes in half.
In a medium high skillet sauté the shallot or scallion in the oil and butter for about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini pieces, salt and pepper and toss. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the zucchini is just tender. Add the tomato halves and toss lightly so as not to break the tomato (you just want the tomato barely warmed through).
Add the basil in just before removing from the heat. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.