Posts Tagged ‘tomato’

Tomato glut #2: Miradoro’s roasted heirloom tomatoes and pasta

One of the most deceptively simple tomato dishes we enjoyed in the Okanagan Valley was served at Miradoro, the glass-walled restaurant hanging off a hillside at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards along the Golden Mile in Oliver, British Columbia. Winemaker Sandra Oldfield makes some terrific wines from the steep vineyards, but the folks at Tinhorn Creek sensibly went into business with restaurateur Manuel Ferreira, who also operates the celebrated Le Gavroche in Vancouver. Executive chef Jeff Van Geest’s menus mate perfectly with Sandra Oldfield’s wines.

Pat was looking for a light dish at lunch and Manuel suggested that she try the garganelli with charred heirloom tomato, basil, lemon, and asiago. It was … a revelation. It’s hard to believe that such simple ingredients could create such a sophisticated dish. As Manuel explained, the tomatoes are quickly roasted in a hot oven, then topped with fresh hot pasta, a few basil leaves, a squeeze of lemon, and some shavings of Asiago cheese. It really doesn’t need a printed recipe.

The diner gets to participate in completing the dish. Pulling the skin off the tomatoes creates a sauce that coats the pasta. We’ve been trying it with various pastas and various tomatoes. A firm-fleshed, dead-ripe tomato works best, and a delicate pasta (no whole wheat!) lets the flavors sing. We enjoyed the dish at Miradoro with Sandra’s Oldfield Series 2Bench Rosé, which she makes from 100 percent Cabernet Franc grapes. It’s a real West Coast rosé, fresh and crisp with striking strawberry notes. At home we opt for a Pinot Grigio delle Venezie that’s harvested a little early to preserve a bracing acidity.


09 2012

Tomato glut #1: Mission Hill’s cherry tomato salad

It’s that season of mixed emotions as the garden starts shutting down and we’re swamped in a sea of wonderfully ripe produce. No matter how we stagger the plantings and the ripening season of different varietals, we’re faced with a tomato embarrassment of riches at the end of August and early September.

We just returned from one of the great agricultural regions of North America, the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, where the explosion in grape-growing and fine wineries in recent years has also led to an explosion in great dining options and in boutique agriculture to support the chefs.

Mission Hill Family Estate, the leading winery of the region, showcases the Okanagan cuisine at a stupendous fine-dining restaurant called, simply enough, the Terrace Restaurant. It’s an all-outdoors spot under a classical loggia with sweeping views of the lake and vineyards. Executive chef Matthew Batey oversees the entire dining program at the winery (there are lots of private dinners and catered events), while Chris Stewart oversees the Terrace.

Chris’s answer to a glut of great cherry tomatoes is to make this exquisite salad of peeled cherry tomatoes, paper-thin toasts, prosciutto, Parmagiano Reggiano cheese, and a dribble of aged balsamic vinegar. He peels the tomatoes by cutting an X on the bottom, then extending the cuts to the stem. Using a surgically sharp blade, he then cuts an equator on the tomatoes, dipping them for a few seconds in boiling water before plunging them into an icewater bath. The skins peel up toward the stem in a beautiful way.

Even if we don’t have the time or ingredients for such a fine dish, we find that taking a few minutes to prepare the cherry tomatoes and setting them out for guests next to a plate dusted with sea salt for dipping makes a nice presentation for finger food.


09 2012

Bowties with tomato trimmings

We’re in the midst of the tomato and basil harvest–lots of Costoluto Genovese tomatoes and lots of Genovese basil. Most nights that means slicing up some fresh mozzarella cheese and enjoying giant plates of insalata caprese.

But what do you do with the tomato shoulders and irregular bits left over when you make a pretty plate of caprese? We took a little inspiration from Sicily and added lemon and ground pistachio nuts for a solid pasta plate that takes full advantage of the harvest.


Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as pasta course


2 cups farfalle (bowties)
1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated
grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup pistachio nutmeats, coarsely ground
1/3 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
extra Parmigiano Reggiano for the table


1. Heat 4 quarts salted water to a boil. Add farfalle and cook al dente (about 10 minutes).

2. While pasta is cooking, carry out other steps. Place chopped tomatoes in sieve and toss with salt. Let drain over bowl, reserving liquid.

3. In heavy-duty skillet, heat olive oil until smoking hot. Remove from heat and add grated garlic and grated lemon zest. Stir until lightly browned.

4. Place skillet back on medium heat and add lemon juice. Cook until reduced by half. Add juice that has drained from tomatoes and reduce by half, stirring frequently to emulsify and get creamy texture.

5. When pasta is done, add to juice mixture in skillet. Add ground pistachios and stir well. Add chopped basil and stir well, cooking about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese.

Serve with additional cheese for the table.


08 2012

Thank you, Liguria

It’s August and we are eating insalata caprese for lunch every day in a vain attempt to keep up with the tomatoes and basil from the garden. And we have the Ligurians to thank.

On my first visit to Genoa and the Ligurian coast in September 2005, I had the superb luck of eating lunch with researchers at the agricultural experiment station in Albenga, just west of Genoa. In true Italian style, our “casual” lunch consisted of several dishes in rapid succession, all of them featuring plants that the experiment station grows. That’s where I met my first Costuluto Genovese and Cuor di Bue Ligure tomatoes. The latter is a large pear-shaped tomato that the experiment station perfected in the 1950s from an heirloom variety that was more variable in its fruit shape and size. The oxheart is now one of the most important market tomatoes of Liguria, and it’s a tasty late-season producer.

Costuluto Genovese

But my heart (and tastebuds) were taken with the deeply pleated “ugly” variety known as Costuluto Genovese, which has a rich tomato flavor. Moreover, its slices have pleasingly frilly edges. Fortunately, it’s a rather thin-skinned tomato, so the skins slip right off after a 10-second dip in boiling water.

Arable land along the Ligurian coast comes at a substantial premium — roughly $400,000 per acre – so farmers tend to concentrate on high-value crops. They grow tomatoes because they love the flavor, but they grow flowers because the payback is so substantial. Flowers and basil.

Genovese basil is justly famous worldwide, and the Albenga station invests a great deal of research effort to selecting substrains that are even more aromatic than the original. This picture shows a flat of seedlings growing at the station. When I was leaving, one of the researchers presented me with a small envelope of maybe 10,000 seeds so I could grow my own.

Alas, I lost the strain a few years ago when my community garden was torn up by the city of Cambridge, and I never did get to try growing the Ligurian tomatoes — until this year. An Italian chef told me about Seeds from Italy (, a Winchester, Mass., company that is the U.S. distributor for Franchi Sementi, an Italian seed company that’s been around since 1783. Franchi, it turns out, carries the seed for the Albenga versions of Genovese basil and Costuluto Genovese tomatoes.

Genovese basil

I started the basil indoors in the first of March, the Costuluto tomatoes two weeks later. Both went into my 6′ by 12′ city garden in Cambridge on May 5 (the traditional last frost date). The basil was stressed by a few weeks of nights in the 40s, but rebounded quickly. We made our first batch of pesto around Memorial Day and will continue into October.

The tomatoes grew vigorously (Costulutos are indeterminate) and began to set fruit in mid-June. We harvested the first fruit on July 15, and we’re still harvesting three weeks later. Those tomato vines will finish soon after yielding about 20 pounds per plant. With the aid of a couple of local makers of fresh mozzarella and the tins of olive oil we toted home from Spain, we’ll be feasting on insalata caprese for at least a few more weeks.


08 2010