Farmers Market – Always Diabetic-Friendly
This post was inspired by my visit to a local farmers stand this morning. We don’t have to wait until the big farmers market comes to town. Depending on where you live, this may happen once a week or once a month. But chances are, if you explore, you will discover smaller farmers stands near where you live or work, along your driving paths, if you are lucky. Almost everything they sell there is good for your diabetic eating plan. All sorts of seasonal produce, vegetables in various colors, fragrant fruits – some harvested just a few hours ago and a few miles away. Shopping there is great for us, for the Earth and for the local economy. It is usually much less expensive than at a chain grocery store. Just remember to bring some cash – some vendors are too small to deal with credit card companies.
Here I am this morning at John’s produce stand. He brings it from several local farms several days a week. He is not even done unloading his truck, so I know we have freshness to bring home today! I am going through my cooking ideas for the week and getting hungry and delighted to pick up lots of vegetables for multiple dishes and some fresh peaches, which are almost done being harvested this season. We always use lots of onion and garlic, cucumbers – small and large, potatoes, okra, watermelon, zucchini, squash – I am getting some of each, but tomatoes I am getting two bags full this time. John has some choices, and I choose heirloom tomatoes for salads and Bradley tomatoes for either salads or cooking.
As I am filling my bags, John asks me if can tomatoes. I spend lots of time in my kitchen already, so I do not opt for canning – too much work, plus I prefer fresh groceries. Too bad, John says: he has a bag of overripe tomatoes that he cannot sell anymore – these would be perfect for canning… And that’s when those tomatoes “spoke” to me: soup! With much enthusiasm, I am taking that bag from John, thanking him and sharing with him my plan for these “no-longer-presentable” delicious versatile fruit. Below, is the recipe for my tomato soup that I will make today as well as some other tomato staples that we enjoy.
Tomatoes – Diabetic Super Food
Tomatoes are on the super food list for diabetics. They contain vitamin C, A and E, iron, and potassium. They are low in calories and, most importantly, low in carbohydrates that turn into sugar after we eat them. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants that boost health and slow down aging. A staple in Mediterranean cuisine, it is also known for its anti-cancer properties. Tomatoes are eaten in vast variety of ways, fresh and cooked. A simple tomato sauce – a combination of sautéed tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs – makes so many dishes not only delicious but also super healthy.
Basic tomato sauce does not have to contain anything else besides these few ingredients:
- Chopped tomatoes. Some people may like to slice them in halves and squeeze juice out, and then chop the “meat.” I do not do that because I like the natural juice instead of thinning the sauce with water. If you have time on your hands and want to get fancy: put whole tomatoes in the pot with boiling water for a few seconds, then cool and peal the skins off, but be careful to not cook them during this process.
- Onion, chopped.
- Garlic, chopped or squeezed.
- A splash of your favorite healthy oil like olive, avocado or grape seed
- A choice of herbs that appeal to you: basil, parsley, cilantro, coriander, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, tarragon, celery, lovage, etc. Fresh or dried are acceptable, just remember that dried herbs are stronger in flavor and may taste slightly bitter if overused.
- Proportions are simple and flexible: for a family-size serving, my common sense is to combine 4 medium/large inions, a head of fresh garlic, at least 5 large tomatoes with 4 tall stems of fresh basil, 3 stems of fresh parsley, ½ a tea spoon of dried coriander, salt and pepper to taste, and optional cayenne pepper powder or flakes.
- Common method: sauté onion and garlic until slightly caramelized, add chopped tomatoes, stir and cook covered on medium to low heat until almost done, add your herbs and spices, stir and cook for a few more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, cook uncovered for a few minutes until it thickens to your liking.
- If you want to make your sauce more filling, you can add chopped mushrooms, carrots, celery, celery root, sweet potato and even some okra. I never add flour. No need to ever add sugar!
My Simple Tomato Soup Recipe
- 3-4 large onion, chopped in small cubes
- 1 head of garlic, chopped or squeezed
- 2 Tbsp of avocado, grape seed or olive oil
- 7-10 large tomatoes, chopped, peeled if desired (described above)
- 1 quart of broth: chicken or turkey broth or bone broth or vegetable broth (low sodium); plus, some extra broth if prefer to not use water when diluting the soup to desired thickness
- About 2 cups of water
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped in bite-size cubes
- 2-3 carrots, shredded or chopped in bite-size pieces
- 1 celery root, shredded or chopped in bite-size pieces
- 13-15 oz can of garbanzo or white beans
- 5 tall stems of fresh basil, chopped, or 1 Tbsp of dried basil
- 3 stems of fresh parsley or 1 tsp of dried parsley
- 1 tsp of dried coriander
- 1 tsp of Mild Jamaican Curry powder or turmeric, just enough to round the mix of flavors
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A splash of cayenne pepper, if desired, but remember that in soups hot peppers manifest their flavor more aggressively that in dishes with low water content
- In a large soup pot, sauté garlic with oil for a few minutes until fragrant, then add onion and sauté until slightly caramelized.
- Add tomatoes and broth, stir well and bring to boil. Cook covered for about 5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and beans and some water and/or more broth to cover the pot content. Add all herbs and spices but save some fresh herbs for serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring to boil, turn heat down to medium/low and simmer until all vegetables are cooked, for about 30 minutes. Sweet potato takes the longest time to cook until soft.
- Adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the saved fresh herbs.
- Variations: you can puree the soup with emersion blender just for a few seconds, leaving potato still slightly chunky. If you want to make a fuller meal out of your soup, add some cooked basmati or brown rice in your serving bowl. One can also put more beans (an additional ½ – 1 cup) in the cooking process, or combine a couple of different varieties of beans and/or lentils that are canned or pre-cooked. Mung dahl beans cook fast and can be added to the soup along with vegetables (about ½ cup). If you do not want to use fresh tomatoes or are pressed in time, you can substitute with canned crushes tomatoes (you will need at least 2 lbs of canned tomatoes).
While the summer still lingers and before winter rolls in, now is the time to enjoy tomatoes. So, here are a few more fun ideas for you to play with in your kitchen after you bring in tomatoes of all sorts of varieties, shapes and colors from your local farmers market.
South American Tomato and Lentil Sauté is super simple and filling but has a refreshing flavor due to lemon pepper and lemon juice. My friend from Columbia made it for us once, and since then, I make it very frequently. Cook 2 cups of lentils in salted boiling water until done, drain and set aside. In a large sauté pan, cook 3 large chopped onions and 7-8 cloves of chopped garlic (or more) in 2 Tbsp of healthy oil (see choices above) for about 10 minutes. Add 2-3 chopped bell peppers and cook then under a cover until peppers become soft. Then add 3-4 chopped tomatoes and cooked lentils, stir to combine, add salt and lemon pepper to taste, and juice of 1 lemon. Cook for a few minutes longer. May add more lemon or lime juice. When super busy, you can save time by using canned lentils (drain and rinse if salted).
“Caprese-Not” Tomato Salad is for when I have the most flavorful tomatoes but do not want the calories from the cheese. All you need is to slice tomatoes in large circles horizontally, sprinkle them with fresh chopped basil or parsley or cilantro (which ever one you have on hand or prefer), pour a splash of good quality virgin cold-pressed olive oil, slightly sprinkle with white balsamic vinegar (much mellower if flavor than the regular dark balsamic), finely shred or squeeze 2 cloves of fresh garlic and top each tomato slice with just a drop of garlic puree, and add sea salt and ground black pepper to taste, or not – if you skip salt and pepper, no one will notice – the flavors are so bald.
Scrambled Eggs With Tomatoes is actually my favorite way to make scrambled eggs, for breakfast or any other meal for that matter. Heat 1-2 Tbsp of avocado or grape seed oil in a pan and sauté 1-2 cloves of finely chopped fresh garlic. Slice 1 large tomato roughly in cubes and add it to the pan with a tiny splash of salt. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Then, add 2-4 eggs to the pan (depending on whether you will share your eggs with anyone or not), mix them with tomatoes, add another small sprinkle of salt (sea or Himalayan salt, preferably), some black pepper, and some chopped herbs like parsley, cilantro, lovage or basil (choose your favorites), and cook on low heat until the eggs are done. I give it only a couple of stirs because I like the egg whites and egg yolks to show their color and flavor.
Tomatoes Only Salad is awesome when you have tomatoes of different color and size on hand. Just slice them up and dress them with your simplest vinaigrette dressing and fresh herbs. The only trick is to cut tomatoes in pieces that are different in size – some large, some small, and different in shape – some cubes, some wedges, and throw in some colorful cherry tomatoes – some sliced in half, some whole.