It’s no accident that tomato and basil, one of nature’s favourite flavour combinations, are both in season so close to Valentine’s Day.
Ask any avid gardener, and they’ll tell you that not only do these two taste great together in cooking, they also, in gardening terms, help each other grow. They share nutrients under the soil surface (cute!!), the basil helps to enhance the tomatoes’ natural flavour, and, like any good boyfriend, protects them from bugs by wafting its basil-y aroma all over the place. That’s why you’ll often see them planted together in thriving kitchen garden patches.
For those seeking to mend a broken heart, tomatoes, which yield their own little heart-shaped chambers once split down the middle, are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins A and C, folic acid, beta-carotene and, most pertinently to our conversation, lycopene – a carotene that’s been found to help with wound healing, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, among others.
Incidentally, in order to help access the benefits of lycopene, delivery needs to be via some form of lipid (aka “fat”) molecule… say, something like olive oil, perhaps? Good to know that the olive oil’s role goes beyond aesthetic enhancement.
Now, seeing as friendly couples like tomato and basil will always be open to a double-date scenario, I figured I’d add one more perfect pair into the mix: new season Victorian garlic and salt flakes.
Often, people who baulk at the idea of raw garlic do so because of bad experiences they’ve had in the past – either because the garlic was older (you can tell old garlic because it starts to grow new green shoots out of its middle) or imported.
Using garlic early in the season (and sticking to the one from around “the block”) is a sure-fire way to get the best out of this much maligned ingredient – the J-Lo of tubers, so to speak.
Garlic is actually quite sweet once you get to know it. That’s where the salt comes in – it helps to temper the garlic’s bitter disposition and brings out its sweeter side.
Crushing garlic against the edge of your knife on a chopping board with a little salt to add friction like this is the equivalent of a weekend away for these two; expect them to come out of it even more loved-up than before (and remember not to add too much more salt to the dish until you taste it).
© 2017 Alice Zaslavsky