Panel chooses winners at farmers market Tomato Festival

HLFM Tomato Festival judges are (l-r) Jenell Mattera from The Buttery; Ian Crandall from Kindle; Denise Clemons of the Cape Gazette; Brenton Wallace from Dogfish Head Brewpub; and Bill Clifton from Henlopen City Oyster House, who is enjoying Leo Eschbach’s prize-winning Heirloom Bloody Mary. BY JACK CLEMONS PHOTOS
August 26, 2013

The Historic Lewes Farmers Market invited me to join a panel of judges for the Great Tomato Recipe Contest. Held during the annual Tomato Festival in early August, this year’s event drew a dozen entries in three categories: appetizer/soup, entrée and dessert.

Fellow judges included Jenell Mattera, executive chef at The Buttery, Ian Crandall, chef and owner of Kindle, Brenton Wallace of Dogfish Head Brewpub and Bill Clifton from Henlopen City Oyster House.

Before tasting any of the dishes, we circled the table where the cooks had placed their tomato creations. This gave us a chance to assess one of the criteria we were asked to judge: presentation. One of the most inventive was Angela Mershon’s Delmarva Sweet BLT Poppers – hollowed cherry tomatoes filled with crabmeat, slivers of candied bacon and tiny spears of Romaine lettuce. The five servings were on individual octagonal plates that she’d arranged in a connected circle.

There were several baked dishes in the entrée division, from Becky Hamill’s zesty Tomato Cornbread Cobbler to David Shuey’s Tomato Parmesan Casserole. The appetizer/soup entries didn’t have a single soup, but some very pretty salads, including Russ Phipp’s Tomato Watermelon Cucumber Salad. We were surprised to discover no one entered a dessert this year.

Once we started nibbling the samples we were served, we had to stop looking at the dishes and pay attention to our taste buds. The most frequent comment from the professional chefs around the table was, “This needs more salt” (there’s definitely a column topic there).

As the tasting continued, we made notes on our worksheets, allotting scores in presentation, overall taste, use of market ingredients and tomato as the star. We all had our favorites, but in the end agreed to use the point system to decide which were the high scorers.

First place and a $100 gift certificate to the HLFM was awarded to Martha Dalton’s Rustic Tomato and Goat Cheese Pot Pie. The second-place ribbon and a $75 gift certificate went to Aimee Isaac’s Roasted Tomato in Rosemary Vinaigrette with Baked Feta. Ed St. Jean’s Roasted Tomato, Eggs and Béarnaise on Crostini with Petite Tomato Salad was the third-place winner of a $50 gift certificate. After much debate, we agreed Leo Eschbach’s Heirloom Bloody Mary deserved a blue ribbon for first place in a category that didn’t exist.

I’ve included the four recipes submitted by the winners so you can try these at home. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s contest.

Martha Dalton’s Rustic Tomato & Goat Cheese Pot Pie

1 pie crust
2 lbs assorted heirloom toma toes*
3 large garlic cloves, chopped*
2 t fresh thyme, minced*
1 T fresh oregano*
1 large red onion, sliced thin*
4 oz. garlic & herb goat cheese*
2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C Romano cheese, shredded
1/2 t garlic powder
pinch of salt & pepper
3 T julienned basil leaves*

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line pie pan or baking dish with crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Slice tomatoes and place half in the bottom of the par-baked pie crust. Layer half the onions on top, then half the garlic, half the thyme, half the oregano, half the goat cheese, and half the mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Repeat with remaining tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs and cheeses. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and basil. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese browns and bubbles.
*from the HLFM.

Aimee Isaac’s Roasted Tomato in Rosemary Vinaigrette with Baked Feta

1 lb mix of heirloom and cherry tomatoes*
Salt and pepper
4 oz feta cheese*
1 t chopped fresh rosemary*
1 1/2 t Burgundy wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
Serve with sliced, toasted baguette*

Preheat oven to 275 F. Place the feta in the center of a baking dish. Core and chop or slice the tomatoes. Place in the baking dish, over and around the feta. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the rosemary and vinegar. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the tomatoes and feta. Roast for one hour. Toast slices of baguette under the broiler until lightly browned. Serve baked cheese and tomatoes warm with toasted bread.
*from the HLFM.

Ed St. Jean’s Roast Tomato, Poached Eggs, Broken Béarnaise on Crostini with Petite Tomato Salad

1. Roast Tomato – cut 2-inch-thick slices, season with garlic and fresh herbs. Roast at 225 F for six hours.
2. Poached Egg – water, white wine vinegar, light bubbles. Poach eggs to desired doneness.
3. Hollandaise – 3 yolks, 6 oz clarified butter, 1 T shallot, lemon to taste, 1 1/2 T white wine vinegar, Tabasco to taste. Whisk yolks to ribbon over double boiler. Add wine, shallot and vinegar reduction. Whisk in clarified butter, season with salt, lemon, Tabasco.
4. Béarnaise – skim milk, 1/4 sheet gelatin, 1 bunch tarragon. Place milk in a saucepan and steep herbs. Add gelatin and process in a blender until foamy.
5. Petite Salad – section heirlooms, cherry picked, 1/4 C sherry wine vinegar, 1 T shallots, 3/4 C blended oil, 1/2 t Dijon, salt and pepper. Emulsify vinaigrette ingredients and toss with tomatoes.
6. Presentation – place bread in the center of the plate. Place roasted tomato on top of the bread and poached egg on top of tomato. Drizzle with hollandaise. Scatter tarragon foam around the plate and garnish with baby tomato salad.

Leo Eschbach’s Heirloom Bloody Mary

4 large heirlooms
3 oz prairie organic vodka
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 t fresh horseradish, grated
1 1/2 t Texas Pete hot sauce
Pinch sea salt
Pinch black ground pepper
celery stalk
cherry tomato

Squeeze tomatoes into fresh juice; discard solids. Refrigerate juice 1/2 hour. Stir in vodka, lime juice, horseradish, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Serve over ice, garnished with celery stalk and toothpick threaded with cherry tomato and olive. Yield: one cocktail.

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