Seasonal Foods: the Heirloom Tomato

Gift Pack 1_7 Dec 04Posted at www.portaliswines.com:  Sunday, August 16, 2009
The market is in full swing and heirloom tomatoes are starting to look good.  Just in case you don’t know the story behind an Heirloom tomato, “an heirloom plant, heirloom variety, or (especially in the UK) heirloom vegetable is a cultivar that was commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but which is not used in modern large-scale agriculture. Many heirloom vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination, while fruit varieties such as apples have been propagated over the centuries through grafts and cuttings. The trend of growing heirloom plants in gardens has been growing in popularity in the United States and Europe over the last decade.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heirloom_plant  Heirlooms are traditionally sweeter & juicier than other tomatoes, and because so many different colors, textures and shapes make up the heirloom family, they are a beautiful addition to any summer salad.

Currently, I am using heirloom tomatoes on the menu for our soup selection: Heirloom tomato gazpacho with avocado.  Here’s the recipe:  Cut the following into a large dice … 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, 1 English cucumber (peeled & seeded), 1 Walla Walla onion, 1 bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 1 jalapeno, half a bunch of cilantro, pinch of fresh oregano, 2 cloves of garlic (diced), ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.  Mix all ingredients in a big bowl and then purée in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Garnish with avocado (large dice).  The acid in the tomatoes can wine pairing a little tricky, so I hit Ross (Who’s Ross?) up for some tips:  sparkling wine such as Prosecco (try: Toffoli NV Prosecco glass $8.75/bottle $20) or a fruity rosé (don’t get too dry; try: Fuente Del Conde 2008 Rosado $19/bottle), or an off-dry Riesling (try: Efeste 2008 Evergreen Riesling glass $8/bottle $18.50) would all work well.

Because of the Heirloom tomatoes, it’s also my favorite time of year to have BLTs.  I wait all summer for Heirlooms to come out for my BLTs.  Since it’s my favorite sandwich, we’re going to start featuring an Heirloom tomato BLT on toasted country bread this week. Pairing on this gets a little easier as you have some nice salt & fat from the bacon to offset the acidic tomato.  Ross suggested that you go with a little fuller-bodied white, such as a Bordeaux Blanc (try: Château Lafont Menaut 2006 Pessac-Léognan glass $9/bottle ) or a lower-oak Chardonnay such as (try: Kumeu River 2005 Chardonnay from New Zealand which is currently on sale REG $40/SALE $19.99.   

One last tip which is not on the menu: Heirloom tomatoes make a beautiful Caprese salad.  All of the sizes & colors mixed with fresh mozzarella & basil, finished with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.  A delicious summer salad.

Enjoy & cheers!
Chef Tracey
originally posted on the Portalis website on Sunday, August 16, 2009

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