Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ingredient 27 - Heirloom Tomatoes

If you have been to a farmer’s market in the last week or so you probably noticed that every vendor has heirloom tomatoes. I bought some last week, figuring it was time to learn what makes heirloom tomatoes different from the typical grocery store tomato.  Heirloom tomatoes are tomatoes whose seeds are passed from grower to grower; they are not hybrids. There are roughly one hundred varieties of heirloom tomatoes, each differing in shape, size, and color.  Grown for their flavor, heirloom tomatoes have a shorter shelf life than their commercially grown counterparts.  Heirlooms are in season from the middle of summer through early fall.

When selecting heirloom tomatoes, look for plump fruit lacking bruises and decay.  Heirloom tomatoes are susceptible to cracking, but cracks are fine so long as they have healed, no exposed flesh.

Tortellini with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Whole Foods
Serves 2-3
1 package tortellini -  I used pork, prosciutto, and parmesan. 
2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
1 .75 oz package fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tbp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Graded parmesan cheese for garnish

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Begin by cooking the tortellini according to the directions on the package. While the water is coming to a boil, dice the garlic and roughly chop the basil. Next core and chop the heirloom tomatoes. To core, slice the tomato into halves or quarters and cut out the meat that sits directly below the stem. In my tomatoes, the core was fibrous and not very juicy.

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Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (medium heat) and add the garlic, cooking until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and a dash of salt and pepper, cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the basil and cooked tortellini to the pan.  Gently stir contents until pasta and tomatoes are mixed.  Plate and garnish with parmesan cheese. 

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I really liked the simplicity of this dish.  It came together in less than 30 minutes and tasted wonderfully fresh.  I think this is an excellent and easy upgrade to my standby meal of frozen pasta and jarred sauce.
With one successful heirloom tomato dish under my belt I am eyeing more complicated recipes.  At the top of my list, Joy the Baker’s Heirloom Tomato Tart, it looks amazing.

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