Laura: Your Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup calls for 3/4 of a pound of chopped fresh tomatoes.
Dan: Nope. Substitute a can of diced tomatoes instead.
Laura: A 15-ounce can?
Dan: Yep. There, I just saved you two bucks. And you're no longer hostage to tomatoes decomposing in your fridge.
The next time you're preparing a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes, consider using canned tomatoes instead. It's an easy, money-saving substitution.
Remember the key insight from Tomatoland: those out-of-season tomatoes sitting in your grocery store's produce section aren't just tasteless and overpriced. They're also likely to be grown under questionable labor and environmental conditions.
Most of North America's canned tomatoes, however, are grown in California under far better conditions. Better still, canned tomatoes are shelf stable: if you decide to postpone cooking your tomato-requiring recipe until next week or next month, you can. With fresh tomatoes, you're held hostage: you have to cook your recipe before those tomatoes spoil.
Most importantly, canned tomatoes actually taste better than out-of-season tomatoes. Remember, out-of-season tomatoes are picked green, ripened artificially with ethylene gas, and arrive at your grocery story tasting like... nothing. At least canned tomatoes taste like tomatoes. Why? Because they're canned at peak ripeness rather than picked green.
Finally, you can buy a small can of unbranded diced or whole tomatoes for 60c to perhaps a dollar. Larger cans cost even less per unit. In stark contrast, out-of-season tomatoes could run you as much as $3.50 a pound.
What kinds of recipes are best for a canned-vs-fresh tomato substitution? In my view, canned tomatoes work best with soups, stews, chilis, casseroles and stir-fry dishes--essentially, recipes where the tomatoes get cooked down.
Fresh salads, however, are an entirely different matter: canned tomatoes most likely won't work as a fresh tomato replacement. The texture just won't be right.
But wait: who says a fresh green salad with fresh tomatoes is some kind of obligatory meal element? An alternative solution here would be to employ antifragile thinking to your diet and ditch out-of-season fresh salads entirely.
The next time you prepare a recipe calling for tomatoes, forget those tasteless, overpriced "fresh" tomatoes in your grocery store's produce section. Use canned tomatoes.
There. I just saved you two bucks.
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