Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rotten Tomatoes Rotten for Business

The salmonella scare has hit tomato U.S. producers and importers hard. Though tomatoes are easing their way back into supermarkets in the Rio Grande Valley, people are removing them from their menus. A local produce importer is sitting with half a million dollars of tomatoes in his warehouse. Demand has dropped across the nation, as well. Though he says his tomatoes have been cleared by inspectors no one's ordering because they're from Mexico, the suspected source of the contamination, according to recent news accounts. The businessman has laid off five people locally and there may be more job losses by farmers in Mexico.

Source: The

Consumers love their tomatoes. Overheard at Whataburger, a local hamburger fast food restaurant: Why don't you have tomatoes in the salad? Are you at least going to discount my salad?
Skip the cucumbers, give me a double heaping helping of Salmonella. Any e-coli in the house?

Cooking without the pathogens
If you have to have your tomatoes, and you have to have them now, turn to the canned stuff. The canning process kills pathogens. Since canned tomatoes are juicy, be sure to drain them well. Save the juice for soups. Chopped coarsely or diced finely, canned tomatoes can be used in tacos and in Pico de Gallo without losing the integrity of the dish.
Here's a tasty Pico de Gallo that's just as good with canned tomatoes as it is with fresh. Pico de Gallo is translated from Spanish as rooster's beak, most likely in reference to the spicy bite it imparts. Pico de Gallo is chunkier and drier than salsa, even the kind from New York City. It is served with meats and tacos or with tortilla chips as a dip.

Pico de Gallo
2 medium tomatoes, diced or 1 small can of tomatoes, drained and diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 fresh jalapeño, seeded and chopped (use the entire pepper if you dare)
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine tomato, onion, jalapeño (to taste), cilantro, garlic and green onion. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro sprigs. Great for barbecues and picnics.

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