Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Favorite Tomato

My FF (Foodie Friend) and I adventured to the 13th Annual Tomato Festival in Granby, Massachusetts at the Red Fire Farm yesterday where we took on over 140 varieties of cocktail, cherry, slicing and hybrid tomatoes. Zena, Goddess of Fire, was not afraid.

Well, maybe a bit, so we used the loo first, just in case, then checked behind the Solar Barn where the tasting was set up, just to make sure everything was safe. Happy to report, the tomatoes growing in the greenhouses were quiet and seemed content to still be alive on the vine. Small children were staring at some large, strange hippy noisy thing all painted in psychedelic colors, wondering why the stupid thing reminded them of Granny and that guy. Crates of tomatoes waited feverishly to be cut up by a group of festively scarved women with large knives. Satisfied, we slowly backed out and found our way to the lineup.

Given a list and six little red stickers for voting for favorites, we waited on line to enter. Little toothpick weapons in hand, we attacked! The line snaked around both sides of the tables, starting with the cocktails, then the cherries. These small treasures were amazing - I especially liked the Indigo Rose cocktails, and the Sungold, Jasper and Black Cherry cherries. Being brave, I looked left, then right for danger, then quickly stuck my toothpick directly into the quart box display in the center of the table and ate a WHOLE little tomato, slurping it down greedily, never sure when I will eat again. (Actually I did this about a dozen times and didn't get caught!) Now the slicers - dangerously good - liked the Bobcat - then on to the heirlooms. Now here, feeling sated, these didn't strike me with the same spark. Many were mild, single note, and mostly very attractive - FF wondered what it would have been like if we had tasted these first. Anyway, I liked Beorange, as well as Juane Flamme. Too bad he wasn't a swashbuckler instead of just a tomato. (The names of the tomatoes were so cool, so many were new to me - who wouldn't be tempted by a little tomato called a Lemondrop???)

I beat off the crowds as we went around and explored the grounds - not much there - a few food stalls (could have had more tomato edibles), the usual knitters and jewelry and tee shirts.  Lots of people, some with dangerous looking furry things on the end of strings. We found our way to the Chef's Tent; J.J. Gonson had finally beat back traffic to get to her cooking demo - tomato soup (what a surprise!). Despite those home "chefs" that like to ask too many questions we actually learned stuff - like not to use Chardonnay to cook with because the oakiness can interfere with the taste of the food, and to kick out the tomato seeds because they can make your soup bitter. Gonson had a nice sharp knife but she used it only to chop up tomatoes and onions. Her bodyguards (children) known as Team Tomato lent a hand in the demo. They were both very brave and really adorable. I let down my guard, pulled out my wallet, and entered the Barn to see what they had for sale.

Tomatoes, corn, beets, beans, herbs, flowers and more, all in abundance. Here the crowd got thick, so I did my best to keep an eye on things on tippy toes, since in shoes I'm still only 5'1". I didn't lose FF among the fray. We paid up proper, loaded up our bags and escaped the grounds, full of great ideas for what to do with too much produce. We talked recipes all the way back to Albany.

Many challenges faced, and many great tomatoes, but my favorite tomato is still FF. She got her own sticker for being so sweet.

Here's what I made when I got home:

  • Serves 2 or it should if you don't overeat, which is easy to do with something this good
  • 30 minutes to prepare

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
scant quarter teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint Jasper Gold cherry tomatoes, cleaned, stems removed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine (NOT Chardonnay!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil

Heat the olive oil and add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook over medium low heat for one minute, or until fragrant. Don't brown the garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, salt and pepper and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or so to concentrate the sauce. Stir occasionally. When the tomatoes are slightly softened you can squish them down gently with a potato masher to break the skin and release the pulp.  Finish with fresh herbs and remove from the heat. Serve over your favorite pasta (a thin spaghetti is a good choice for this light, simple sauce).

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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