Savory/Sweet Switch: Tomato Tarte Tatin

Photo: Alexandra Fleischman Whether tomatoes belong to the fruit or vegetable families is a debate we've all heard before. But, at least they are always treated as a vegetable, making it into salads, sauces, curries, condiments, and pastas. The list goes on. With the exception of a tomato jam, I just haven't encountered tomatoes used in sweet breakfasts or desserts. (Thinking again, that's not true: tomato basil sorbet, but it wasn't very good or dessert-like.)

That is, until Bon Appétit posted their recipe for a dessert tomato tarte tatin. (A savory tomato tarte tatin wasn't new-- add some onions and olives to the tomato mixture, and use less caramel, and this goes well for dinner.) I was intrigued, and so was the blog world. Their reviews were positive, pleasantly shocked. So when I saw beautiful plum tomatoes this week, I knew what I would be using them for. (Although I considered these, too.)

Don't believe me? Let your friends try it, and don't tell them the pieces of fruit on top are tomatoes. Like in tomato jam, if you've ever tried it, they retain their signature tomato flavor but it's hard to identify because it's so different. I like to think this is akin to finding the essence of the tomato: the flavors in common between a pomodoro sauce and this pie have survived the widely different treatments, and  it's delicious.

Get the recipe over at Bon Appétit. Other than using cane sugar instead of regular and using one fewer tomato, I didn't adapt the recipe at all. Tip: the caramelizing stage took me a bit longer than 25 minutes. Make sure that it's bubbling a lot, or the juices from the tomatoes will take forever to evaporate.

For more Savory/Sweet switches, try:

Blueberry-Apple Shrub

Sweet, Caramelized Croutons

Savory Chili Cheesecake

Vegan Red Pepper Savory Muffins

10 Recipes Using Summer Tomatoes

tomatoes, farmers market, recipes, summer For the warmest weather, everyone reaches for something light and refreshing. I'm pretty sure no one ever thinks of reaching for tomatoes. At the height of the summer season, tomatoes, whether it be Roma, Cherry, Beefsteak, or the funky and colorful Heirloom variaties are packed with flavor, the right balance of sweetness and tartness, and are perfect for any meal. Sear them and eat them with eggs for brunch, or toss them into pasta topped with lobster. Tomatoes make a quick and easy summer meal, that's bright in color and amazing in flavor. Try one of these 10 tomato inspired recipes this week to add some summer to your meals. 

Catching Up on Ketchup

By: Michael Engle

Have you ever wondered why ketchup labels itself as "tomato ketchup," even though "other" ketchup is almost impossible to find? This is because ketchup has a long, rich, and interesting history. Tomatoes have only served as the standard ketchup base for a little more than 200 years. Surprisingly, if not for a since-proven misconception about tomatoes, ketchup may not have become so firmly entrenched with tomatoes.

Ketchup can be construed to be a descendant of fish sauce (ke-chiap), which is an Asian condiment made of pickled fish and spices. After ke-chiap was invented in China, in the 1690's, it soon became incorporated into Malay culture. In the 1740's, British explorers discovered ke-chiap in Malaysia, and imported it to England. Eventually, the product name evolved to the anglicized "ketchup." In British cuisine, the most popular ketchup was neither a tomato variety nor the original fish version; instead, the Brits invented a mushroom ketchup to accompany their Victorian meat pies, puddings, and roasts.

The first recorded tomato ketchup recipe, as created by Sandy Addison, appeared in the 1801 publishing of The Sugar House Book. Even though the recipe would be too salty for most modern palettes, this represents the first culinary use of tomatoes in American cuisine. At that time, it was still unclear whether or not raw tomatoes were poisonous. Thanks to liberal uses of vinegar, preservatives, and, eventually, sugar, ketchup overcame all suspicions over tomatoes to become a popular condiment in the United States. Starting in 1837, ketchup was distributed nationally; in 1876, the H.J. Heinz Company was established, and would eventually establish its ketchup as a flagship product.

Even though tomato ketchup is the most common form of ketchup, mushroom ketchup is not the only alternative. Filipino cuisine famously uses banana ketchup as a signature ingredient. Tomato ketchup was widely available in the Philippines before World War II, but due to a low tomato supply in the region, ketchup manufacturers switched to bananas. As a result of its overwhelming popularity, banana ketchup continues to be made and sold as a special niche product. This special sauce is commonly served with fried meat, and is also an ingredient in Filipino spaghetti. Because banana ketchup is, naturally, an unappetizing shade of brown, it is often colored red, so that it looks like the rest of the world's ketchup.

While tomato ketchup is generally considered to be the national condiment, it might have to have a challenger soon. The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Nassauer reports that Hidden Valley is aiming to re-market its famous Ranch sauce, from a salad dressing to "the new ketchup." On the other hand, if you don't care for Ranch dressing (or just prefer ketchup), yet are bored of traditional ketchup, there are plenty of resources!

Whether you are ready to pull out all the stops with Food Republic's Homemade Ketchup recipe, or whether you just want an easy way to make your ketchup a little more exciting (to do this, my method is ridiculously simple--I just stir some Tabasco into my ketchup), we have you covered! We can't do your laundry or pay for your dry cleaning, though, so have your napkins ready!

Check out this recipe for a Sweet & Spicy Peach Ketchup...

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 2 medium yellow onions, sliced 6 peaches, peeled and pitted (two 10-ounce bags of thawed frozen peaches can be substituted) 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 tablespoon sugar 1/2 cup cider vinegar 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. In a deep saute pan over medium, heat the oil. Add the onions, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn golden brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes. If they start to darken too much, add 1 tablespoon of water.
  2. Add the peaches, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, paprika, white and brown sugar, vinegar and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, or until thick.
  3. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree. Adjust the seasoning with additional sugar, salt or vinegar. Transfer the mixture to a clean jar and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 3 weeks.

Photo:Scout Seventeen

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An Intro to Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes are among the most common vegetables, or fruits, on the planet. There are countless varieties of tomatoes and numerous ways to distinguish those varieties. One way to distinguish them is to separate the hybrids, or more common mass-farmed varieties, from heirlooms.

Like any other heirloom vegetable, an heirloom tomato is one that has been passed down, via the seeds, through multiple generations because of its appealing shape, size, color, taste, or other characteristics. Though some people have debated over what qualifies as an heirloom, most agree that the cultivar (specific seed family) must be at least 50 years old or from before 1940, or have been passed through several family generations.

Because heirloom tomatoes are usually unique and saved for a reason, their interesting and exotic tastes can add a lot of great flavor into your dishes. But because plant breeders want to preserve certain characteristics, they haven't genetically altered heirloom tomatoes, which make them less resistant to diseases. Unfortunately this can make them slightly more difficult to grow, meaning they may have higher price tags than the hybrid varieties you'll find in the supermarket.

Independent or smaller-scale producers often grow heirloom tomatoes, so you'll have the best luck finding the most varieties at your local farmer's market where you can buy directly from the growers and learn more about what the different cultivars taste like.

Heirloom tomatoes come in many varieties-over 230, in fact. Some of these are quite rare, but others can usually be found more easily. Some heirloom varieties include the "Church," "Dr. Neal," and "Magnum" Beefsteak tomatoes, "Black Plum," "Golden Egg," and "Golden Roma Italian" plum tomatoes, and the "Riesentraube Grape," "Black Cherry," and "Matts Wild Cherry" grape and cherry tomatoes. But these are only a small few of the many different varieties of cultivars. Because of the sheer number of cultivars within each general variety, it would be best to ask your grower if he or she has any advice as to what cultivar might work best with what.

Next time you go to the farmers' market, look around for something new and experiment with heirlooms in different tomato dishes. Different heirloom cultivars can put a whole new spin on dishes like a simple tomato and basil soup, some easy goat cheese-stuffed tomato appetizers, a clean ravioli with ramps, tomatoes and walnuts, or a hearty polenta with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto.

Do you buy heirloom tomatoes?

Photo: advencap on flickr

Tomatoes are here! All About Summer's Most Exciting Crop

The summer is the best time to cook fresh produce. So many fruits and vegetables are in season and the flavors are outstanding-it makes it easy to eat all the colors of the rainbow.  On the red end of the spectrum, one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients is the bright tomato.

Tomatoes are among the most popular and useful ingredients in cooking around the world. Italian, French, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Latin American, you name it, all sorts of cuisines use tomatoes in many different ways. But with so many uses and so many varieties of tomatoes, it can be difficult to know what to eat with what or which variety is best for which dish. Here are a few basic things to keep in mind when choosing what to buy or, if you have a greenthumb, what to grow.

Tomatoes can be categorized in several different ways. Tomato plants that eventually stop growing and bud into a flower are called "determinate," whereas those that can grow indefinitely are called "indeterminate." They can also be categorized as "heirloom" or "hybrid." Heirloom tomatoes are grown with older varieties of seeds and usually have more interesting colors, shapes, and flavors, whereas hybrid tomatoes are the more common mass-produced variety that generally grow with more uniform features. Another distinguishing factor is whether the tomatoes are grown in a green house, or "hot house," or on a farm. Of course, within each of these categories there is a wide assortment of different varieties.

There are a few common categories, which are mainly based on size and shape. Usually the size and shape of the tomato will partially dictate or indicate the flavor. Some of the more common varieties are: globe, beefsteak, plum, cherry, and grape.

Globe tomatoes are what most people think of when they imagine tomatoes. They have a simple, round shape and work well for fresh eating on their own or in salads and tend to be more on the acidic side. Similar to globes, Beeftsteak tomatoes are quite large and firm. They are perfect to slice for a sandwich or to top a hamburger and work well for cooking because of their high flesh content.

Plum tomatoes are usually oblong or egg-shaped are also very popular for cooking in sauces because of their high solid flesh content. Many Italian chefs choose Roma and San Marzano, which are two common varieties of this very popular choice. Plum tomatoes also stand up well to handling and are therefore a good choice even in the off-season.

Cherry and grape tomatoes are both quite small and sweet. Cherry tomatoes are round and very popular eaten whole as a snack or whole or halved in a salad. Grape tomatoes are about the same size, but are more oblong shaped like plum tomatoes. Like cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are delicious eaten as a healthy snack or halved in salads, sautes, or egg dishes. Fresh sliced up cherry or grape tomatoes are also great in a fresh summer pasta.