Tomatoes are finally making an appearance in my local farmers’ market, and there are few vegetables (or fruits, really) that demonstrate superior flavor when eaten in season than tomatoes. This past winter and spring, I strayed and had been buying tomatoes out of season to make a favorite family dish. I have gone many winters without buying a single tasteless, mealy tomato, but last fall C’s wheat and milk allergies reared their ugly heads.
You might be wondering how this has anything to do with tomatoes. Well, a lot and nothing, really. But before I go on, I should also let you know that banana, avocado, eggs, chicken, peas, pinto and black beans, sesame, peanuts, and rice are also among the foods that cause allergic reactions in one or more of the members in my household (mostly C, and my son (H)). Those of you who suffer from multiple food allergies may know that food allergies can be fluid, they change, some go away, new ones appear. C’s wheat and milk allergy comes and goes, sometimes with years between any reactions to the foods. This is true for other foods as well.
Now, eliminating wheat and milk can cause some challenges, but by themselves they are pretty easy to deal with. Having to eliminate rice in addition to those two makes cooking for everyone quite challenging. Quinoa is a neutral grain for us as far as allergies go, but it comes with its own complexities. So, I find myself making things that can be eaten with rice or wheat pasta, corn or flour tortillas, rice or soba noodles, which brings me back to tomatoes. One dish that is so versatile for my family’s diverse needs is picadillo, a delicious dish of ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, olives, and raisins. It is really a dish intended to be made in the summer. One evening a couple of summers ago C remarked at how exceptionally flavorful the picadillo came out. We were sure it was the garden tomatoes and peppers that I used.
Spotting the tomatoes in the farmers’ market last week, I scooped up enough for the dish only to be disappointed. Early season tomatoes are not as good as the ones to come later in the summer. Many of my tomato plants are flowering, so it won’t be too long before I can add all of the flavor that was intended for a tomato. And, hopefully soon, those wheat and milk allergies (and my daughter’s rice allergy) take their leave.
In the meantime, here is a picadillo recipe:
(Slightly adapted from this one)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 an onion, sliced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 jalapenos seeded and diced (optional)
- 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 8 green olives, pitted and sliced into quarters
- 2 tablespoon of the olive liquid
- 1/4 cup raisins (softened by soaking in warm water for 20 minutes)
- 1 poblano chile or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 potatoes (optional, see below)
Cook the ground beef, jalapenos and onions over medium heat until the beef is about 1/2 cooked and only some pink remains. Add the garlic and cook for mixture for 2 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over low heat until the beef is well browned and crumbly and the tomatoes and onions are softened and begin to combine with the other ingredients.
In a separate pot boil the potatoes. When they are soft cube and fold into the meat mixture.