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September, 2013

Tomato Basil Sauce with Mushrooms
By Cheryl Forberg

Some swear by the many interesting and wildly different heirloom varieties (in all sorts of colors and patterns). Others just as proudly show off the hybrids they grew in their backyards, passing out bags bursting with tomatoes to friends and neighbors when the bounty arrives. But either way, come August and September in most of the country those at the table are in for a delicious treat
.

For the backyard gardener or farmers market forager, tomato season is one of the true joys of summer. They may not be around for long, but when they are, there is little you can put on your plate that so easily and simply (and healthily) packs so many flavors.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Some swear by the many interesting and wildly different heirloom varieties (in all sorts of colors and patterns). Others just as proudly show off the hybrids they grew in their backyards, passing out bags bursting with tomatoes to friends and neighbors when the bounty arrives. But either way, come August and September in most of the country those at the table are in for a delicious treat.

Organic Tomatoes

The tomato has long been a controversial fruit, er, vegetable, though. Did you know that on May 10, 1983 the U.S. Supreme Court officially declared the tomato a vegetable, based on the fact that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert? Botanists may argue the other way. Whichever side of the debate you fall on however, one thing is for sure: The tomato is a good for you food!

Tomatoes are not only extremely versatile and taste great; they also have many nutritional benefits. They are high in lycopene. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes (and fruit such as watermelon and pink grapefruit) that has potent antioxidant properties. Many studies have revealed evidence that lycopene may help decrease the risk of prostate cancer while working together with other nutrients.

Tomatoes are also high in vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. One medium tomato is approximately 95% water and has 22 calories. One cup of fresh tomatoes provides over 57% of the daily value for vitamin C, 22% of the daily value for vitamin A, and almost 8% of the daily value for fiber.

Sometimes it's all we can do to wait to pop the deep red slices into our mouths as soon as the orbs are sliced. Others blanche and preserve their ruby treasures or boil them down into sauces so the late-summer treat can last months more.

But raw or cooked -- which is better? Fat¬s soluble nutrients such as lycopene become more concentrated when tomatoes are cooked. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is more abundant in raw tomatoes. You'll be happy to know that you should enjoy this anti-aging “fruit” both ways for optimal benefits.

Here is one of my favorite recipes to enjoy the flavors of summer the whole year through. This large recipe for tomato sauce is super simple, yet makes enough (5 pints or 10 cups) to last throughout the year if you can or freeze it.

Tomato Basil Sauce with Mushrooms

This easy recipe makes a very large batch of sauce. I like to freeze or can in 1 pint (2 cup) containers to enjoy the taste of garden fresh tomatoes any day of the year. It’s great as a pizza sauce, for pasta or even thinned with broth for soup. I chose to cook in a non stick pan without oil but you can use a tablespoon of olive oil to sauté the onions.

Yield: 5 pints or 10 cups or Twenty ½ cup servings

Ingredients:  Tomato Basil Sauce with Mushrooms

Ingredients:
1 large Yellow Onion, chopped
2 cups (8 ounces) sliced Shiitakes or Brown Mushrooms
3 tablespoons Chopped Garlic
5 pounds Fresh Tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
2 cups Fresh Basil leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons Smoked Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Instructions:

In a large Dutch oven, sauté the onions for about 3 minutes or until softened but not brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes longer or until they are tender and lose their water. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer but do not brown.

In a large Dutch oven, sauté the onions for about 3 minutes or until softened but not brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes longer or until they are tender and lose their water. Add the garlic and cook for one minute longer but do not brown.

Add the tomatoes and basil and cook for about eight minutes, or until the tomatoes are cooked but still bright. Cool slightly.

Add the tomatoes and basil and cook for about eight minutes, or until the tomatoes are cooked but still bright. Cool slightly.

Carefully pulse the sauce in batches in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender til it is chunky but not totally pureed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can or freeze.

Carefully pulse the sauce in batches in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender til it is chunky but not totally pureed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can or freeze.

Tomato Basil Sauce with Mushrooms

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories 35
Fat Calories 10
Total Fat 1 grams
Saturated Fat 0 grams
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 240 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6 g
Fiber 2 g
Sugars 3 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A IUs 20%
Vitamin C 30%
Calcium 2%
Iron 2%