No matter how you pronounce it, the Tomato is a very special food. Just think of how many of your favorite dishes would simply not exist, or not be the same, without it. Pizza, chili, and salsa just to name a few. The tomato goes far beyond taste, though. It has super-nutrients that are important for everyone, and maybe extra-important for athletes.
When we ride, run, ski, and climb, our oxygen turnover rate is increased. And, while the benefits of exercise far outweigh the bad, we produce extra free radicals and oxidative stress in our cells with the extra oxygen turnover. For this reason, it’s important that we’re diligent with getting antioxidants to “quench” and neutralize any damaging free radicals. That’s where our friend the tomato comes in.
Recipe of the Week: Roasted Tomato Basil SoupIngredients:
- 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 quart chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.
Use organic tomatoes and organic canned tomatoes whenever possible. A blender or food processor will work if you don’t have a food mill. This is a great change from salad or sautéed vegetables. Serve cooked lean protein on the side or even in the soup (shrimp or chicken would work well). Add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt to your bowl to add a creamier texture.
This recipe features a lot of tomatoes, both fresh and canned. Tomatoes have a lot to offer, most notably, they are high in lycopene. Lycopene is a carotene. But, unlike other carotenes, it is not chemically altered into an active form of Vitamin A in the body. This is actually very beneficial since it allows lycopene to have unique, very powerful antioxidant action in our cells that other carotenes do not offer (which is a good reason to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get a lot of different carotenes and other nutrients).
There have been a lot of human studies done on lycopene – it has been shown to be protective of healthy cells and inhibitory to unhealthy cells (such as cancer cells). While much of the research is inconclusive at this point, lycopene’s benefits are potentially as far-reaching as promoting heart health, reducing cancer risk, reducing Diabetes, reducing cholesterol, and reducing inflammation. In fact, as an antioxidant, test tube studies have shown it to be 125 times as powerful as vitamin E! To get the most of your tomatoes, use organic whenever possible – they usually contain significantly higher amounts of lycopene.
This Winter, warm up and reduce your oxidative stress with some tasty Basil Tomato Soup.
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