If your garden is anything like ours, you are seeing a lot of red these days. Hooray for tomato season!
And not just any old tomatoes. The latest and greatest varieties are actually heirloom tomatoes: unhybridized, open-pollinated cultivars with flavor concentration and texture to put that wan, mealy tomato in your grocer’s produce aisle to shame. And with names like “Brandywine,” “Black Krim,” “Arkansas Traveler,” and our personal favorite, “The Mortgage Lifter,” it’s impossible not to wonder about the stories behind these characterful, pretty fruits. They are living history.
Our friend, Gary Ibsen, of TomatoFest is our go-to expert on all things heirloom tomato. For this season, Gary offered a whopping 600 varieties of certified organic heirloom tomato seeds from his online shop, and every single seed was harvested by hand at the TomatoFest Farm. That means he personally tastes every single tomato plant on the farm to ensure that its fruit are up to his high standards for seed-bearing. He even carries TomatoFest exclusives like the Julia Child Heirloom Tomato, Marianna’s Peace Heirloom Tomato , Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Red Tomato , Sunset’s Red Horizon Heirloom Tomato , Heart of Compassion Heirloom Tomato , Homer Fike’s Yellow Oxheart, Dagma’s Perfection Tomato and Gary Ibsen’s Gold Heirloom Tomato. (If you’re interested in sampling some of Gary’s “babies,” come out to Sunset’s SAVOR the Central Coast 2011, where he’ll be offering delicious bites and information on growing your own heirloom tomatoes.)
While there’s nothing better than biting into a ripe, raw tomato plucked warm from the vine, we here at PSPR also love to make the most of this season by cooking up soups, sauces, and evens jams with our gardens’ bounty. Here are some of our favorite tomato-centric concoctions. Enjoy!
Gazpacho (Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: La Cocina Andaluza: The Flavor of Flamenco)
- 1 (1/2-inch-thick) slice day-old bread (from a round or an oblong loaf) or 1 (1-inch thick) slice day-old baguette, crust removed
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/2 lb tomatoes
- 1 Italian green frying pepper (Cubanelle) or small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped (1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, or to taste
- 2 to 3 teaspoons Sherry vinegar, or to taste
- Tear bread into pieces and transfer to blender with water. Let stand while preparing tomatoes.
- Cut a shallow X in bottom of each tomato. Blanch in a large saucepan of boiling water 30 seconds, then transfer to an ice bath. Peel and seed tomatoes, then coarsely chop.
- Add tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, and cucumber to blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, vinegar, and 1 tsp salt, or to taste.
- Chill gazpacho at least 30 minutes or serve in glasses over a bed of ice.
Cooks’ note: Gazpacho can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled.
Salsa Pico de Gallo (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Makes two cups
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 serrano chiles, finely diced, or 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup finely diced white onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Juice of 1 lime or 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Combine the tomatoes with their juices, garlic, chiles, onion, cilantro, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add the lime juice and taste for salt. If the tomatoes weren’t very juicy, add 1 tablespoon water. Let stand 20 minutes or so before serving.
Tomato Jam (Mark Bittman, NY Times)
Makes about one pint.
- 1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.
- Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.