Here come the tomatoes! In addition to our delicious field varieties of tomatoes, this week’s shares will contain a taste of our heirlooms.
Heirloom tomatoes are old varieties that are notoriously difficult to grow. They are more susceptible to diseases, and irregular and unpredictable in shape, size, and color. They’re prone to splitting and scarring. When you see them, you can understand why they are not the best choice for commercial growers supplying supermarkets – they are too unreliable to grow and they don’t have a very long shelf life. Nothing compares, however, to the beautiful flavor of a midsummer vine-ripened heirloom tomato. Our experiment growing heirlooms in our high tunnel this summer has paid off and we are thrilled to share this rare and wonderful treat with you!
A Country Divided
You only have to look at the tomato to see how our country is divided. In New Jersey, the tomato is the state vegetable but in Ohio and Tennessee, it is considered the state fruit. Arkansas stays neutral by declaring the tomato the state fruit and the state vegetable. This heated controversy was brought to the US Supreme Court in 1893. At that time, the tomato became a legal vegetable. Botanically, the tomato is considered a fruit because it has seeds. Nutritionally, it has the profile of a vegetable. Whether a fruit or a vegetable, we can all agree that the fresh farm tomatoes are delicious. They are packed with folate, potassium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. They also contain one of the most famous antioxidants around… lycopene! A lot of research has linked lycopene with decreased cancer and heart disease risk.
SIMPLE TOMATO SALAD
Here is a simple tomato salad that will showcase this superb vegetable… I mean, fruit!
- 4 cups of chopped tomatoes
- 3 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 ½ Tbl sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley) optional
Mix together and let sit for 30 minutes before serving. Occasionally, I will add a little (¼ cup) olive oil. The oil actually increases the lycopene absorption.
ANOTHER SIMPLE TOMATO SALAD(AKA CAPRESE SALAD)
Here is another variation on the simple tomato salad theme. This works great as an appetizer or snack. The amount it makes depends on how many cheese/tomato slices you want to make and eat.
Slice some fresh mozzarella cheese about 1/4 inch thick (pre-sliced mozzarella works perfectly for this)
Add a similarly-sized tomato slice on top of each cheese slice
Top with basil leaves (cut into slivers or left whole–your choice)
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
ANOTHER SIMPLE TOMATO SALAD MASQUERADING AS A SANDWICH
I first had this classic sandwich years ago in a now defunct sub shop in Central Square, Cambridge, called “Il Panino.” It was their signature sandwich. After the first bite, it became one of my favorite sandwiches of all times and I make it often every tomato season. It really works best with garden fresh tomatoes. Here is how it goes:
Take the ingredients in the caprese salad recipe above. Put it all, along with 2-3 slices of prosciutto, either in a 6-inch baguette section (sliced in half the long way, but not all the way through so it holds everything in better) or in between 2 slices of your favorite bread–sourdough is wonderful, here. Enjoy!
You Gotta Lycopene
In the world of nutrition, the brighter the better. Disease-fighting phytochemicals are located in the natural pigment of vegetables and fruits. When we eat these colorful vegetables, we are essentially building an army to combat the disease-producing free radicals skulking around in our bodies. It is a constant battle of numbers… and it is important to stack the deck so that the phytochemicals outnumber the free radicals.
Tomatoes make the fight fun and delicious. One of the more powerful phytochemicals (antioxidants), lycopene is found in tomatoes. So, while you enjoy the summer harvest of juicy tomatoes, your body is working hard to vanquish the enemy.
Here is a recipe to help you win the battle. Low fat cheeses can be substituted.
EASY TOMATO TART (adapted from Green Valley Kitchen)
- 1 sheet of Puff Pastry
- 3 large tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
- Handful of chopped basil and parsley
- 2 ounces cream cheese (goat cheese can be used)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella or fontina cheese (original recipe calls for 2 cups)
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided in half (I used a little less of this as well)
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Optional shredded basil and balsamic glaze for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2. Defrost puff pastry
3. Sandwich sliced tomatoes between paper towels so that they drain
4. Unroll thawed puff pastry onto a sheet pan covered with parchment paper
5. Prick entire pastry, generously with a fork – this will keep it from “overpuffing”
6. Combine cream or goat cheese with ¼ parmesan, herbs and garlic
7. Spread a thin layer over pastry, leaving ½” border
8. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top
9. Layer sliced/drained tomatoes on top of cheeses
10. Sprinkle remaining parmesan on top
11. Bake 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until golden brown
12. Remove from oven, lift parchment and pastry off baking pan and onto a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes
13. Garnish with basil and balsamic glaze
GREEN GODDESS SANDWICHES
These sandwiches are full of an array of fresh vegetables and herbs, and incorporates tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce from this week’s share. First you blend up a fresh herb and mayonnaise sauce, then make some quick pickled onions (very quick: just throw sliced onions in vinegar and spices and let sit 10 minutes). Once that’s done, pile your veggies in between two slices of bread and you have yourself an amazing sandwich!
GREEN TOMATO PIZZA
Adapted from The Tomato Book by Yvonne Young Tarr (this is a great book if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by any type of tomato)
Green tomato overload is what happens when a frost is forecast while your tomato vines are still full of unripe tomatoes. Instead of being something to worry about–it can be something to celebrate. Pizza sauce made with green tomatoes is familiar and surprising at the same time and I would recommend giving it a try, should there be green tomatoes at Tuesday’s pickup (rumor has it there may be some).
-Although delicious with it added, the cream can be left out (or reduced) for a lighter sauce
-For pizza dough, use your favorite recipe or ready-made dough found in the deli section of most grocery stores. I like the one at Trader Joe’s, and they have white and whole wheat versions.
-The number of pizzas this makes depends on the size of the pizza and how much sauce you typically put on. I usually make roughly 12-inch pizzas and use no more than 1/4 c sauce, to keep the pizza from getting soggy.
-You can make this recipe through the step where you purée it in the blender/food processor, and then freeze until you’re ready to continue. I make a big batch in the fall (it scales up well), divide it into 2 cups portions, and freeze each portion is a quart size freezer bag. Then I can grab a bag and finish making the sauce when I’m ready for pizza.
-Parma ham or prosciutto, or cooked shredded chicken scattered on top is delicious
-This sauce (along with the cheese) is also good on pasta, omelettes, and baked potatoes
Per pizza (~12 inches in diameter, or rough equivalent)
- 1/4 cup green tomato sauce (recipe below)
- 2 oz mild-flavored melting cheese such as Fontina, Gruyère, Gouda, or Emmantal, grated (about 1/2 cup)
- Whole (or slivered, if you prefer) basil leaves, to taste
Pizza dough — use your favorite recipe or use premade dough from the grocery store (in a bag in the bakery/deli or in a can in the refrigerator case). I like the kind Trader Joe’s has (in a bag) and they have a white and a whole wheat version.
Green tomato sauce
- 2.5 lbs green tomatoes, chopped
- 1/3 c water
- 4 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tblsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced (about 1tsp)
- 1/2c heavy cream
- a pinch of nutmeg
Mix tomatoes, water, and sugar together in a stew pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for two hours. Give it a whiz in a blender or food processor to make a smooth sauce.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the puréed tomato mixture, cream, and the nutmeg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Pizza assembly (per pizza):
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, roll out the dough for one of the pizzas (about 12 inches or equivalent).
Top with 1/4 cup green tomato sauce, spreading evenly.
Sprinkle 2 oz grated cheese (1/2 cup) over the top.
Sprinkle basil leaves on top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is cooked through and the cheese on top is slightly browned.
GREEN TOMATO ROAD TRIP
The green tomatoes have all been distributed, but if you have any left over, or are cleaning out your garden, we’ve got you covered.
With every challenge, there is opportunity. So it goes with the green tomato. It has all the qualifications of a healthy vegetable. Compared to red tomatoes, green tomatoes have a little more of the essential B vitamins; thiamine, B6 and pantothenic acid. These nutrients help our bodies extract energy from the food we eat. Green tomatoes also contain tomatine. This alkaloid is a possible cancer fighter.
Despite the great resume, finding a family friendly recipe for the green tomato is daunting. Challenge accepted…green tomato cake! Below is a link to the website for the cake recipe. This cake has less butter and a more unusual flavor than the other cakes I found online.
(RECIPE NOTES: 50g of butter is approximately ½ stick and 180 degrees celsius is 350 degrees F. Also, watch the baking time…I had a bigger pan so it was ready in 33 minutes.)
The recipe calls for an unfamiliar ingredient: Masala Chai powder. I made a short road trip to the new Indian market in Nagog park. I had to ask for help because the store is filled with all kinds of fun and unusual ingredients, which I found both exciting and overwhelming. Chai Masala powder is a mixture of several spices including cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The powder/spice blend is in a brown box, labeled “T-plus Masala”. You can also sprinkle it on roasted winter squash or pumpkin…Yum!
The cake turned out great. It is moist and sweet so adding frosting is not necessary. I mixed a little of the Masala powder (my new favorite spice mix) with powdered sugar and sprinkled it on the top. The new green tomato challenge: not eating the entire cake myself!