eat well: to...mato with love

The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks mom!
You don’t have to read the book Tomatoland to know that modern industrial farming practices have ruined the tomato. One can tell just by looking at or tasting the hard, flavorless and anemic distant cousins of what our grandparents called tomatoes. I have gotten to the point where I can’t even eat them—they repeat on me like raw onions. Yet I can devour homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes like candy.

I don’t buy a lot of canned foods, preferring to cook with fresh, seasonal vegetables and dried beans, but during the winter months, canned tomatoes are pretty much a necessity if you cook with tomatoes and don’t want to buy the freakish things piled in the produce isle. Recently, however, David told me that I should stop buying tomatoes packaged in BPA lined cans. (Go here to find out why BPA’s are bad). And even though I know it’s impossible to live in a chemical free environment these days unless I move to, say, the moon, I like to eliminate as many chemicals as I can when new information becomes available.

Although baby bottles are now being made BPA free, most canned goods still have BPA linings. Even so, there are several companies who have made the switch or have never used BPA’s. Any tomato product in a jar is BPA free. San Marzano tomatoes (which many people believe to be the tastiest) have no BPA’s. Nor do Pomi tomatoes (which come in a box, not a can). Muir Glen has recently switched to BPA free cans. Look for a 2013 or 2014 expiration date since some cans are still on the shelves from before the switch. (When you open the Muir Glen can, if it is golden inside instead of white, it is BPA free).
Beans, rice, and chili from Eden Organics are BPA free but not their tomatoes. (For a list of other foods in BPA free cans look here.)
I decided to try a new recipe this week with my BPA free canned tomatoes. Inspired by last week’s Mardis Gras, I chose a traditional Cajun dish called Maque Choux. What intrigued me about this recipe is how easy it is. If you make it in summer, you can use all fresh ingredients, but it tastes absolutely delicious using canned tomatoes, frozen corn, and frozen okra which makes it a perfect winter throw together dinner. And although the vegetables are traditionally braised in bacon grease and often shrimp or sausage are added, the dish stands on its own as a delicious and satisfying vegetarian meal. I used hickory-smoked olive oil to give it a musky flavor, but you could use regular olive oil (and a little bit of liquid smoke if desired). Or grate some smoked cheddar or gouda on top.

Maque Choux
2 T hickory-smoked olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
½ t salt
1 T pressed garlic
1 fresh Anaheim chile, minced (or ½ chopped green bell pepper)
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cups frozen sliced okra
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (BPA free, of course)
1 ½ cups black-eyed peas (frozen or canned)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
¼ cup water
1 t salt-free meat seasoning (rub for steaks and chops)
1 t dried oregano
¼ t dried thyme
1/8 t ground black pepper
Chopped scallions

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, celery and chiles (or peppers) and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the corn, okra, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, water, and seasonings.
... Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.
3. Serve topped with scallions over rice or quinoa.
with quinoa and a side of squash
it's also delicious served solo





Lori from A Family's Life | 2:35 AM

Tomatoes are something that I actually don't care about the price, I'll by them if the smell and look delicious no matter the price!

Lovely recipe!

Jen | 8:11 AM

THANK YOU! I have been looking for brands other than Eden Foods that sell tomatoes in BPA free cans. My local stores don't carry Eden Foods BPA free canned tomatoes. I've started using fresh tomatoes instead but some nights the can will just make things easier.

Jen | 8:13 AM

I'm sending this recipe to my mom! She's newly vegetarian and this might be right up her alley. Thanks!

Arnebya | 8:23 AM

We got so irritated with the state of tomatoes in our grocery stores that we decided to try to grow our own. Did you know that squirrels like tomatoes? Oh, but squirrels only like a bite of tomato. A bite of EACH tomato (b/c certainly this one must taste better or different from that one and that one and that one. Ugh).

This dish is something I'd try because we're slowly moving closer to vegetarianism. I must admit I'd steer clear of the beans though. Me no likey.

Sarah | 8:40 AM

I don't have smoked olive oil so I am going to try using a touch of liquid smoke. I also like spicy so I think some Tabasco/hot sauce is in order! Thanks for the great recipe!

Mama Smith | 9:11 AM

Looks so great- I've never heard of hickory smoked olive oil but that sounds delicious.

Stacey | 9:27 AM

Yum! I'm not a vegetarian but I made your roast vegetables from a few weeks ago and WOW! I think I'll be trying all your recipes from now on! Thank you!

little wakka | 10:04 AM

Great post! I can eat a tomato from my grandma's garden like an apple but not one from the grocery store. I am growing tomatoes on my porch and was told that if squirrels mess with them to sprinkle cayenne powder around the base. It gets on their paws and they eat it and won't come back (I hope).

Rebecca | 10:42 AM

Sounds delicious! I love your mom's posts.

I remember in a former post, perhaps about Thanksgiving, your mom referenced a site that she uses to find free range ethical animal products. I was looking through her old posts and couldn't seem to find it. Do you happen to remember what it's called? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

MindofDave | 12:43 PM

Little Tip about tomatoes, If you dont let them air, i know it sounds strange, they have no taste. So the last tomatoe at the bottom of the bowl can be the best bite :)

Kitty | 1:09 PM

One thing that's frustrating about buying canned tomatoes is the amount of sodium they contain! I only buy the organic kind with no added salt. I forget the brand, but I find it at Whole Foods. I don't know the condition of the can, but I can't stand the salt in literally all of the other versions on the shelf.

Goody | 3:25 PM

Those un-lined tins are wonderful to use as moulds for steamed puddings/brown breads, as well.

I love, love, love these vegetarian recipes.

Anonymous | 4:53 PM

Always remember to buy organic corn.
According to Food Inc., our corn supply is so genetically altered, it's nearly poisonous!!

Wendy Woolf | 5:25 PM

Anon...Always organic everything! :)

Craig Wiesner | 5:43 PM

One of my favorite memories in life was walking into our friends' house and finding mother, father, and son in the kitchen with every single surface covered with.... tomatoes! They were in the oven, on the stove, on the counters, on the table, teetering on top of the fridge... they had found fantastic tomatoes at the farmer's market at the end of the day and ended up with cases and cases and cases of delicious amazing tomatoes so they were going to bottle, jar, can, sun-dry... whatever they could do to have those tomatoes for a year or two to come. That's when we realized that we had to get some good books on preserving/canning/pickling for our shop and web store. Our current favorite is We Sure Can. Fun stuff. Thanks for the great post and recipes!

Tiffany | 5:55 PM

Made it tonight, delicious! My husband loves beans and rice (years spent in Brazil changes a man's taste buds) and he was excited that we had this tonight and we are having red beans and rice this weekend. Oh the little things (especially little cajun things :))!

Thank you for another great recipe. We make a WWW original almost weekly.

Jadzia@Toddlerisms | 5:08 AM

I love the tomatoes in boxes. We also get the paste in tubes, which is GREAT because it eliminates the inevitable waste that results from recipes that call for, like, 1T of tomato paste! However, I can't find a real answer on whether those tubes have BPA or not--some sources say yes some say no. Aargh.

We've come a long way since I had to throw a tantrum at day care in 1999 (cut me a break, I was seriously sleep deprived) in order to get the teachers to allow me to leave my son with non-plastic baby bottles!

Molly | 7:09 AM

WWW and readers, let this be the last year you buy canned or jarred tomatoes! Seriously. Last summer I tried canning my own tomatoes for the first time. Holy crap, was that the EASIEST THING IN THE WORLD to do! I did it twice last summer for the first time--so that's a total of two half-mornings' worth of work--and we have had canned *local* tomatoes, with no chemicals at all, in completely reusable jars, all winter long. We still have plenty to last until next tomato season.

Here's what you do: go to the farmer's market right when it opens, and buy a box of their "seconds"--their not-pretty tomatoes. Cutting them up and doing water-bath canning only takes a second and requires no skill. Here's a book with the basics:

I can't believe anyone ever convinced people they should buy their canned tomatoes. Brilliant marketing--and totally insane, considering how easy it is to do it at home!

loloeleven | 9:05 AM

I love all these recipes--- thanks WWW! I wanted to recommend a book I just heard about and bought-The Vegan Slow Cooker: Simply Set It and Go with 150 Recipes for Intensely Flavorful, Fuss-Free Fare Everyone (Vegan or Not) by Kathy Hester.

It has a bunch of nice vegan slow cooker (big surprise!) recipes. The nice thing is that they all seem to be fairly simple with whole food ingredients rather than funny dairy and meat replacements. I've only tried one so far, but I have most flagged to try soon. She also describes how to make diced tomatoes to preserve in the freezer. Just though I'd pass along that book information : )

Sarah B. | 12:36 PM

I stopped eating canned foods after getting pregnant because of the BPA. Cooking has been a challenge because I use them a lot, and I can only find Pomi strained tomatoes (not diced or whole).

Such great news about the Muir Glen!! I am so excited to go and stock up. Thank you, thank you!

Anonymous | 9:49 AM

What about canning tomatoes on your own with BPA-free lids? Or freezing them?