Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is an Heirloom Tomato- By Chef John Johnson

What is an Heirloom Tomato?

Tomatoes are native to the Americas. Eating tomatoes always bring me back to when I use to hide in my parent’s garden on warm summer days with a salt shaker in one hand and picking tomatoes with the other. Eating them right off the vine will always bring a smile to anyone. I don’t think I have ever had a better tomato. If you want to come close the Heirlooms, come very close. There are nearly 600 varieties out there and many of which are hard to find. In most grocery or produce stores, they always seem to have what I call the standards; Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Golden Queens. These are then mixed together for the following recipe.

They are classified into four types: the Commercial Heirlooms are open pollinated tomatoes varieties that were introduced by seed companies before 1960, the Family Heirloom are Varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation, the Created Heirloom is one that has been crossed deliberately using two original heirlooms to create a new one and finally the Mystery Heirloom, which arises accidentally in nature due to natural cross pollination.

My favorite is a very unique tomato “The Garden Peach”, which has a light yellowish, pinkish color resembling a small peach when fully ripe. It even has a slight fuzzy texture to them. I have been lucky enough to find seeds from a wild breed of tomato from the Galapagos Islands. One of two wild species endemic to the islands, that due to growing so close to the sea water, have a sweet and salty taste to them. I can’t wait to try them.

The best way to eat heirloom tomatoes is simply cut them serve them salted with a little oil. The recipe below does just that and I have dressed them up with some tapenade and tomato pepper.

Plate Ingredients:

Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes 3 large

Assorted Cherry Tomatoes 6 each

Small basil leaves 4 each

Small celery leaves 4 each

Curry Hummus (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Kalamata Tapenade (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Basil Goat Cheese (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Hawaiian black lava salt 1 Tbl

Olive Oil 2 Tbl

Tomato Paper (recipe below) 3 pieces

Curry Hummus

Garbanzo beans, drained (save juice) 1 can

Yellow onion, rough chopped ¼ each

Dijon mustard 1 Tbl

Paprika ½ tsp

Garlic (minced) ½ tsp

Lemon (juiced) 1 each

Curry powder 2 tsp

Crushed red pepper 1 tsp

Olive oil 1 Tbl

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. If the mixture is too thick use the juice from the beans to create a consistency to blend well. Reserve

Olive Tapenade

Kalamata olives (pitted) 3 cups

Garlic (roasted) 6 gloves

Red pepper (Roasted & seeded) ¼ pepper

Basil (fresh) 4 large leaves

Place all ingredients into a food processor and chop until blend with smooth with some small chunks. Reserve

Basil Goat Cheese

Goat cheese (room temperature) 8 oz

Basil (chopped) 10 large leaves

Olive oil 2 Tbl

In a mixing bowl blend all ingredients together until fully incorporated. Reserve

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