Tomatoes are on the menu

August 18, 2014

Tomatoes are on the menu this week, featuring the winning recipes from the Historic Lewes Farmers Market Great Tomato Recipe Contest. The Tomato Festival at the market last Saturday welcomed over 3,800 visitors who enjoyed sampling different tomato varieties and guessing how many tomatoes were in that very large jar.

It’s always a surprise when the winner is announced; it seems so unlikely someone could guess the exact number of tomatoes of various sizes packed into the tall glass container. This year, Anne Mathay correctly guessed 332, while some of her competitors were off by as much as 100 tomatoes.

The judges for the Recipe Contest were an impressive collection of executive chefs and owners representing several of the area’s finest restaurants. Shown are (l-r) Aaron Berg, The Buttery; Bill Clifton, Henlopen City Oyster House; yours truly, Cape Gazette columnist; Ian Crandall of Kindle; and Jay Caputo of Espuma, Rose & Crown and Water Ice Shack.

All the dishes entered in the recipe contest were arranged on a nearby table, protected by mesh food cover domes that resembled open umbrellas. Before the judges started tasting, the dish would be brought over so we could see it before slices or spoonfuls were served.

The contest was divided into three different categories: appetizers, entrees and desserts. We were asked to judge them on how well tomato starred in the dish, whether fresh market products were included as ingredients, presentation and overall taste.

Becky Hamill’s Yellow Gazpacho won first place overall in the contest and first place in the appetizers. She offered a unique presentation: covered bowls adorned with green plastic spoons and served with a lucite box filled with diced vegetable garnish and tomato-dust croutons. The recipe below shares the secret to maintaining the soup’s golden color - vegetable flavors from peppers, cucumber and onion are added through an infusion.

Of the entries in the popular dessert category, Harry Keyser’s Tomato Jam Cookies won second place overall and first in the group of treats. Sweet jam offered hints of spice from Poblano chili and crushed fennel seed. The jam’s rich texture was the perfect complement to a buttery, rosemary-threaded shortbread.

The judges agreed the tastiest among the entrees was Richard Scalenghe’s Triple Tomato Salad, which earned third place overall and first place in his category. Tomato three ways included fresh, dried and as the backbone of a savory dressing. Market produce ingredients included fresh basil, bread, Swiss chard, and of course, tomatoes. The clever assembly gave each flavor and texture a chance to shine.

As you may imagine, visitors to the market milled around the leftovers, hoping for a taste of the beautifully plated and inventively created entries. Thank you to the winners for sharing your recipes and thanks to the market for giving me a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.

Becky Hamill’s Yellow Gazpacho

12 yellow tomatoes
3 t olive oil
2 celery stalks
1/3 green pepper
1/2 red pepper
1 seeded, peeled cucumber
1/4 Vidalia onion
1 large garlic clove
2 slices stale bread
1 T red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste
dash of celery salt
splash of hot sauce

Place tomatoes and some of the olive oil in a blender or the bowl of a food processor without overcrowding. Puree until smooth and repeat with remaining tomatoes. Pour tomato puree into a large bowl; set aside. Chop remaining ingredients into chunks and place on a piece of cheesecloth large enough to hold them. Tie the bundle and place in the soup to refrigerate overnight. Remove the vegetable bundle the next morning, allowing the juices to drain into the soup. Return the soup to the blender or food processor; tear the bread into chunks and add to soup. Process until completely smooth. Season to taste with remaining ingredients. Serve with diced vegetables and tomato-dust croutons as garnish.

Tomato-Dust Croutons

2 slices dense bread
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
tomato powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut bread into small cubes; set aside. Melt butter in an ovenproof skillet and add olive oil. Toss bread cubes into skillet and shake until coated. Arrange cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crunchy. While still warm, shake tomato powder over cubes, tossing until well dusted.

Harry Keyser’s Tomato Jam Cookies

1 C sugar
4 lbs tomatoes, cored and sliced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t cinnamon
1 minced Poblano chili
1/2 t toasted, then crushed fennel seed

2 C flour
1/4 C cornmeal
1/2 t salt
1 C butter
2/3 C sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 T minced rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread 1/3 C sugar on the bottom of a Dutch oven. Cover with one-third of sliced tomatoes, lemon zest, cinnamon, chili and fennel. Repeat, reserving lemon juice for the top layer. Cook, uncovered in the middle of the oven. Continue cooking, checking every 30 minutes until all liquid has evaporated, about 2 hours. Whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt in a mixing bowl; set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in egg yolks and rosemary, then add flour mixture. Shape into two logs, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill for 90 minutes. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Slice logs into 1/4-inch rounds and arrange in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake for 11 minutes; allow to cool before spreading with tomato jam.

Richard Scalenghe’s Triple Tomato Salad

1/4 C seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 C olive oil
4 chopped sun-dried tomatoes
8 basil leaves
salt & pepper, to taste
4 large heirloom tomatoes
1 bunch Swiss chard
1/2 loaf country bread
olive oil
6 sliced sun-dried tomatoes
basil sprigs for garnish

Combine vinegar, 1/2 C olive oil, chopped sun-dried tomatoes and basil in a blender. Process until completely blended; season to taste with salt and pepper. Roughly chop the heirloom tomatoes into pieces. Place in a serving bowl and pour in half the dressing. Toss gently to combine; set aside for 1 hour. Preheat grill. Rinse chard and remove stems below leaf. Spread on the grill and cook until slightly charred; remove to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove center rib and tear leaves into pieces. Remove crust from bread and tear into pieces large enough to not fall through the grill grate. Brush bread with olive oil to lightly coat. Grill until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add chard, bread and sliced sun-dried tomatoes to bowl of marinated tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with basil sprigs.

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