Tuesday, July 28, 2009

something worthwhile to post

Hey all my fans out there! man- its been a couple months since i posted anything! i guess the feeling struck me today, when i started reading about tomatoes.

Those who know me know that i am food obsessed and every summer I get giddy at the smell of tomato flowers/vines. For those of you who know that smell- know that there is nothing else like it in the world.

As a kid, my mom planted a ton of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, peppers and various beans every year. In addition to our seasonal garden, we had peach trees (3) for making homemade peach ice cream and collecting bee stings, an apple tree, an enormous blackberry bush where our foster box turtles always escaped to, a giant mulberry bush that continuously dotted the yard, the roof and my face with purple spots, wild strawberries and some “volunteers” as my mom called them—or things that started growing from the compost- melons and the like. Mom was dedicated to this urban hippy garden, and I recall once when the neighborhood kids started stealing our crop- mostly our favorite, ripe blackberries- which she usually saved to make jam. Mom was livid when she noticed that things started going missing. I remember that she and I walked down to the creek, gloves in hand, and retrieved poison ivy, which she planted on the outside of the fence to ward off unwanted guests.

Yes, reader- I know this sounds like I grew up deep in the country, far down a dirt road, and you’re probably imagining me as a little girl wearing denim overalls and my fuzzy tangled hair up in pig tales and covered in dirt like a little rascal. But I’m talking about Southside Richmond- near George Wythe high school. In a not so nice area back then, where gun shots were common, and poverty even more so. We were poor, and we knew it, but until I was in college- I thought everyone grew up this way, and ate vegetables all the time. As an adult, I started meeting friends who had never tasted asparagus, snapped fresh green beans, or knew the pleasures of a really truly fresh tomato- not the water logged, pre refrigerated forced ripened tomatoes anyone can get from any store.

Because we grew a lot of our own food, I ate so much squash and zucchini, I can’t stand to look at the stuff, and the taste still sort of revolts me. But Unlike Zucchini/ Squash, i did not have a tomato overdose as a child- even though they were probably as abundant, if not more so at least in variety.

There is just something so right about a perfectly perky red cherry tomato plucked right off the vine and popped into your mouth, exploding with flavor and texture... a beefy Hanover tomato dusted with a little salt and pepper on a BLT or just T sandwich, a zesty roma sliced thick and placed on top of cream cheese and bread, or my all time favorite- ultimate grilled cheese (recipe below).
While I only wrote one of these recipes the rest made me think of my childhood, and everything that I’ve become and love because of the food we grew, and the dishes I learned to make as a result. Never underestimate the power of a ripe tomato.

Maya’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese (makes one)The special ingredient in this is the honey- sounds odd, but it works. Balanced and sweet- it really pulls together that licorice-y flavor of the basil, cuts some of the sharpness of the cheddar and pulls in the sour flavors from the bread. 2 slices sour dough bread2 slices fontina cheese2 slices cheddar cheese2 basil leaves2 slices Hanover tomato- dusted lightly w salt and pepperDijon mustardhoney2 tablespoons butter
In a medium non stick sauté pan, heat pan on medium for 3-4 minutes. Assemble sandwichOn one slice of bread, smear mustard – as much as you like. Place the cheddar cheese on top. Put the tomato slices, and basil leaves on top, and drizzle with honey. Place fontina cheese on top, and 2nd slice of bread. Melt butter in pan, and grill on both sides on medium until cheese is melted. Cut in quarters and serve with carrot sticks.

All other recipes taken from Plateonline.com (a trade magazine)

Chef Jeff Gaetjen
Bob Kinkead's Colvin Run Tavern - Vienna, Va., USA
Yield: 6 servings

Red tomatoes (Brandywine, Cherokee purple or other), large, ripe 3 each
Yellow tomatoes, large, ripe 3 each
French lentils 1 C
Vegetable oil 1 TBS
Celery, finely diced 1/3 C
Yellow onion, finely diced 1/3 C
Carrot, finely diced 1/3 C
Chicken or vegetable stock 3 C
Red lentils 1 C
Garlic cloves, minced 2 each
Extra virgin olive oil 6 TBS
Red wine vinegar 4 TBS
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade 9 each
Red onion, thinly sliced 1 each
Sugar 1/2 tsp
Fresh goat cheese, 9-Oz log
Walnuts, toasted, finely chopped 1/4 C
Fresh basil sprigs 6 each
Aïoli 3 TBS
1. Bring 8 cups salted water to a boil in a large saucepot. Core the tomatoes and score the bottoms with a paring knife. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 minute, and then shock in an ice-water bath. When cool, peel the tomatoes, cut into wedges and reserve, discarding skins.

2. Bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil in a saucepot and add the French lentils. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain. Combine the vegetable oil and the diced vegetables in a saucepot over medium heat and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the French lentils, 1 cup of the stock and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender but not mushy, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and place in a stainless steel bowl.

3. Bring the remaining 2 cups stock to a boil and pour over the red lentils. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and add to the French lentils. Stir in the garlic, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and half of the basil chiffonade. Add the tomato wedges, red onion, sugar and salt and pepper to taste and toss. Let marinate for about 10 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roll the goat cheese log in the walnuts and cut into 6 1- to 1 1/2-ounce rounds, each about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and warm in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes.

6. To serve, divide the lentil salad onto 6 chilled salad plates and top with alternating red and yellow tomato wedges in overlapping circles. Top each with some of the remaining basil chiffonade and a round of warm goat cheese. Garnish with a basil sprig and drizzle with the aïoli.

Chef-Owner John Ash
John Ash & Co. Restaurant - Santa Rosa, Calif., USA

Yield: 4 servings
Halloumi cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 Oz
Peasant-style bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes 1 each
Red onion, small, cut into 12 wedges, root end left on 1 each
Cherry tomatoes Extra virgin olive oil 1/4 C
Garlic, roasted or finely minced 2 tsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Arugula leaves, young, tender, lightly packed 5 C
Honey lemon vinaigrette as needed

1. Thread the cheese, bread, onions and tomatoes alternately on 4 skewers. Whisk the olive oil and garlic in a small bowl and brush onto skewers. Season generously with salt and pepper and grill over a multi-level fire, turning once until the bread is toasty, the vegetables and tender and lightly caramelized, and the cheese is lightly browned.
2. Toss arugula with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and divide among 4 plates. Gently push the cheese, bread, onions and tomatoes off the skewer onto each plate and serve immediately with additional vinaigrette, if desired.

Executive Chef Timothy Magee
South City Kitchen - Atlanta, Ga., USA

Yield: 4 servings
Cider vinegar 3 TBS
Vegetable oil 1/4 C
Shallot, minced 1 each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dijon mustard 1 tsp
Country ham, jullienned 1 Oz
Yellow tomato, thin slices of 12 each
Asparagus spears, thin 16 each
Vidalia onion, sliced 1 TBS
Tomato, chopped 2 TBS
Chives, cut as needed

1. In a stainless steel mixing bowl, combine the cider vinegar, vegetable oil, shallot, salt and pepper and Dijon mustard and mix thoroughly. Reserve.
2. Divide evenly and lay 3 yellow tomato slices onto each of 4 salad plates.
3. In a frying pan over low to medium heat, gently warm the ham. Add the asparagus, onion and chopped tomato; gently warm. Add the reserved vinaigrette and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Divide and arrange the mixture atop sliced tomatoes and garnish with cut chives.

Chef-Owner Carol Watson
Milk & Honey Café - Chicago, Ill., USA

Yield: 4 servings

Chicken breast, whole, marinated 2 each
Ciabatta, loaf of 1 each
Extra virgin olive oil as needed
Bleu cheese spread 1 TBS
Plum tomatoes, roasted, halves 4 each
Bacon strips 8 each
Romaine leaves 4 each

1. Grill chicken on a char or outdoor grill.
2. Cut each chicken breast in half.
3. Slice ciabatta loaf into 8 slices. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and toast either on grill or in a sauté pan.
4. Spread about 1 tablespoon of bleu cheese on each of 4 slices of toasted bread.
5. Place 1 piece of chicken on bread and top with a tomato half. Top with 2 pieces bacon and a romaine leaf and finish with other piece of bread. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.


  1. I am so glad those childhood fruit and vegetable memories are fond ones for you! but I don't remember transplanting poison ivy - did i really do that? There's a lot I don't remember. Brain overload! love you forever,Mom

  2. The warm asparagus salad looks delicious! We recently started our own garden and hope our kids have great memories of their childhood just like you have! I just got some Himalayan sea salt from Sustainable Sourcing https://secure.sustainablesourcing.com/ and it has been great with the fresh veggies. I think I'll try it out with the asparagus salad. Thank you for sharing those wonderful recipes.