My heart always breaks a little when I meet a picky eater. If only they knew all the amazing eating experiences they're missing out on! When I meet a picky eater, I can't help but inquire into where their picky eating stems from. Being a dietitian, I want to understand so I can better help my clients. Also, I'm nosy.
Usually it stems from parents. I hate to add to the parent guilt, but it's true. Either parents forced them to eat something against their will, never exposed them to it, or prepared it regularly and horribly. Or, in a case of familial food phobia, they themselves were fearful of the food and their children picked up on that fear.
Luckily for me, my parents were pretty adventurous eaters and passed only one food phobia down to me. Tomatoes. For the longest time, I refused to touch tomatoes because growning up, my mom refused to touch raw tomatoes. To this day, she will panic as if there was a bloody fingernail or used needle on her salad if a poor chef unknowingly missed the "NO TOMATOES" message from her server. I thought we had made some progress last week when she sent me a picture of beautiful hued tomatoes from Union Sqare Farmer's Market, but when I asked if she was tempted to try them, she replied matter of factly, "no." Well, okay then.
As a child, I'd eat tomato sauce and even sun dried tomatoes, but if it still looked anythihng like it's raw tomato source, NOPE. That included roasted or sauteed tomatoes, because you could still see the seeds, or as I called it, the snot.
If you read my blog now, you now I proudly eat raw tomatoes and actively seek the best farmer's market tomatoes each summer. My gateway tomato? Roasted cherry tomatoes, introduced to me by a Mediterreanean bean salad, similar to the one I'm sharing today. These tomatoes were sweet, juicy, caramelized and bursting with flavor, not bland, mealy and...snotty. I liked them. A lot.
Now that I am a dietitian and know all the nutritional fabulousness of tomatoes, I'm incredibly happy that I was able to work past my food fear and make tomatoes a regular on my plate. Take a look at what all you tomato-haters are missing out on:
- LYCOPENE // The antioxidant lycopene is probably the nutrient most associated with tomatoes. It's responsible for tomatoes rich, red color. Most have heard lycopene is helpful for prostate cancer prevention, but studies have also linked the nutrient to heart health benefits, bone health and the prevention of other types of cancer, including breast, lung and pancreatic. For those of you who haven't gotten the the raw tomato stage, you'll be happy to know lycopene is thousands of times more available in tomatoes cooked with a little fat versus raw....kinda like these roasted cherry tomatoes in olive oil!
- VITAMIN C // One cup of raw tomatoes contains 30% your daily nees of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that confers heart healthy benefits and is important for glowing, youthful skin.
- HEART HEALTH // Much of the research into tomato nutrition has focused on their ability to reduce the risk of heart disease. Tomatoes help prevent blood platlets from sticking together (reducing the formation of plaques), prevents the odixation of fats in the bloodstream, and improve cholesterol levels.
I highly recommend you stick to raw tomatoes when in season, both for nutrients and flavor. I still can't stomach raw tomatoes if they're of the out of season, grocery store variety. Heirloom tomatoes, bred for flavor, not for appearance and transportability, contain more nutrients. Small tomatoes, with a higher skin to flesh ratio, also contain more nutrients, since many of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like to hang out near the flesh.
Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Bean Salad
Serves 2 to 3
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
- 2 to 3 tablespoons slivered basil
- 1/4 cup pesto
- arugula or mixed greens
- lemon juice or red wine vinegar, optional
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes until slightly shriveled. Remove and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, toss together roasted tomatoes, white beans, olives, basil and pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over greens with a drizzle of lemon juice or red wine vinegar if desired.