BACK TALK

Money’s Worth | Winter tomatoes

Off-the-vine freshness in a can

LEAH BOWNESS January 24 2005
BACK TALK

Money’s Worth | Winter tomatoes

Off-the-vine freshness in a can

LEAH BOWNESS January 24 2005

Money’s Worth | Winter tomatoes

Off-the-vine freshness in a can

It’s understandable that a person might be skeptical. “Canned” anything always sounds so unappetizing, particularly when you’re looking to impress with a fresh, delicate tomato sauce. But renowned Tuscan chef and cookbook author Lorenza de’ Medici speaks from experience when she says that, in Italy, canned tomatoes are used more often than freshespecially in the wintertime, when high-quality specimens are virtually impossible to come by. Still, when selecting a brand, she advises, “It’s very important that the quality is good and the tomatoes are very ripe with thick juice.” These days, imported, organic and specialty brands are more widely available in Canada than ever. To help you select the best one, we used de’ Medici’s own basic tomato sauce recipe (“Salsa Di Momorodo Cotto”) to test five brands—including smoked, organic and gourmet Italian varieties. LEAH BOWNESS

For canned produce, these tomatoes taste impressively fresh. With many of the gourmet brands, you barely need to add anything for a simple, delicious sauce. The gourmet Italian brands are the priciest, but worth the expense for their fresh-from-thegarden taste and texture.

OUR PICK:

Bioitalia’s tomatoes will blow the mind of any gourmand. Bring them out on special occasions.

What’s In Store

Late summer, the height of tomato season, is the best time to process fresh, locally grown tomatoes for year-round use. The Velox tomato press (Williams-Sonoma, $44) allows you to process up to 50 kg/hour. $tore sauce in the freezer all winter long.

UNICO TOMATOES BIOITALIA ITALIAN PEELED MUIR GLEN ORGANIC THOMAS’ UTOPIA VERIFIED STRIANESE SAN (796 ml, $1.39) TOMATOES WITH ADDED FIRE ROASTED WHOLE ORGANIC TOMATOES MARZANO TOMATOES TOMATO PUREE & BASIL TOMATOES (796 ml, $2.59) (800 g, $4.49) (796 ml, $4.99) (796 ml, $3.99) COUNTRY OF ORIGIN Canada Italy U.S. Canada Italy KEY INGREDIENTS Plum tomatoes, tomato Certified organic Campania Fire-roasted certified organic Verified organic whole San Marzano tomatoes, juice, salt. tomatoes, purée, basil, salt. roma tomatoes, sea salt. tomatoes, tomato juice, salt. purée, basil leaf, salt. TIP: Tomatoes, particularly when eaten cooked, are one of the best sources OBSERVATIONS of lycopene, a natural antioxidant believed to ward off prostate and other cancers. Small, consistent size. Varying sizes, gorgeous Meaty and monster-sized. Small, consistent size. A Perfectly sized and shaped Soft orange-red colour. deep red hue, with very few Unusual burgundy-brown slightly watery base, but in a thick sauce. Plump Noticeable seeds and ends. seeds and ends. colour, dusted with black. appealing hue and texture. and juicy-just begging A little tough. Very few seeds. to be mushed into sauce. TASTING NOTES Tasty and a little sweet, Rich and complex, with Tangy and smoky with This sauce is fresh, like Exceptionally fresh and with low acidity. Inexpena lingering aftertaste. a slight acidity. Fun for the tomatoes were just thick. Felt transported to sive enough to produce a change. plucked from the vine. the Italian countryside. sauce to feed an army. A subtle acidity. RATING ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★ ★★★★

LEAH BOWNESS