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TCP Kitchen

Homegrown Tomatoes

Fresh and full of flavor

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes,
What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes?
Only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes
            —Guy Clark, “Homegrown Tomatoes”

The first word that comes to mind when I think about tomatoes is variety: There are yellow ones, brown ones, orange ones, green ones—and especially red ones. You can do just about anything with them: Sauce ’em, bake ’em, stuff ’em, slice ’em.

Nothing satisfies like a fresh tomato plucked from the vine. But even when it’s not tomato season, the canned varieties work just fine in many dishes.

One of my memories of growing up is of our vegetable garden. No matter what else we grew—bell peppers, carrots, corn—tomato plants were always part of the garden. There were cherry tomatoes, which were always a little too sour for me, and those big, slicing tomatoes that went so well on toast with a few crisp slices of smoky bacon, a little mayo and crunchy iceberg lettuce. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Not only did I fall in love with tomatoes during my youth, I also grew up adoring seafood, especially shrimp.

We lived about 20 miles from Freeport, where my dad would buy the little critters fresh off the boat. The jumbos would oftentimes get battered and fried. But sometimes, he’d get the small ones, and we’d have Shrimp Creole.

The combination of spicy tomato sauce, the Cajun vegetable “trinity” (onion, pepper and celery) and those sweet-fleshed shrimp surely satisfies.

I recently used the family recipe to whip up a batch, although I’ve modified things a bit. The sauce is a little thicker and the result is more than a touch spicier, but that’s how I like it. I hope you like it, too.

Shrimp Creole

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken or pork broth
1 teaspoon red pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Add shrimp, tomatoes and chilies, and diced Romas and stir well. Reduce heat to simmer; add tomato paste to broth, mix well and add to pan. Add seasonings and cook, stirring often, until shrimp are firm and sauce begins to thicken. Serve over rice. Makes four generous servings.

Serving size: 1 cup. Per serving: 302 calories, 39 g protein, 5.9 g fat, 22.2 g carbohydrates, 658 mg sodium, 258 mg cholesterol

June 2009 Recipe Contest