TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – PART 2 – THE DINNER

TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – PART 2 – THE DINNER

The highlight of our Summer entertaining schedule is our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” which we offer as an auction item at our church’s annual auction.  This year, our winning bidder was a vegetarian so my wife Catherine ran with that theme as she began planning the dinner.  I was in charge of growing and harvesting the vegetables, hosting the tomato tasting (see previous post) and handling the logistics.  Catherine did the rest.

CATHERINE AT WORK IN THE KITCHEN

CATHERINE AT WORK IN THE KITCHEN

We also had to be conscious of the fact that she was scheduled to work the day of the event.  Catherine decided to prepare ahead as much as possible.  In July, we tried fresh pea soap for the first time.  We both fell in love with the recipe and decided to make more and freeze some for the Tomato Lovers’ Dinner.  That would be our first course.  Catherine found the recipe on line at The New York Times  Diner’s Journal blog written by Mark Bitman.  He got the recipe from Lee Duberman,  the chef at Ariel’s in Brookfield, Vermont.  This is “blow your head off” good.  I love fresh peas and this soup celebrates their flavor without letting anything get in the way.  Here is the link to the  recipe:  Possibly the Best Pea Soup.

THE FIRST COURSE - FRESH PEA SOUP GARNISHED WITH CREME FRESH

THE FIRST COURSE – FRESH PEA SOUP GARNISHED WITH CREME FRESH

This turned out to be a huge hit with our six guests.  A couple of people even remarked that they have hated peas since they were children growing up in the 1950’s, when most vegetables came out of a can.  They were shocked that peas could taste so good.  I love surprising people with the goodness of food from the garden.  The tone was set for the rest of the evening.

LIVELY CONVERSATION AND GREAT FOOD

LIVELY CONVERSATION AND GREAT FOOD

The main course was a French Tian, a casserole featuring eggplant, marinara sauce, three cheeses, pine nuts, basil and thyme.  It was delicious and quite satisfying.  Here is a link to the recipe: Eggplant Tian

Catherine felt that we needed to feature some of our other vegetables so she made two side dishes: Crisp Haricot Vert w/ Pine Nuts, and a carrot dish from Susie Middleton’s excellent cookbook “Fast Fresh and Green”.  This is one of our favorite resources.  Susie knows her vegetables and a thing or two about cooking. If you are looking for some fresh ideas about cooking vegetables give this book a try.

Haricot Vert (French fillet beans) are one of our favorite tastes of Summer.  We have tried to freeze them for later use with horrible results.  They are best eaten fresh.  Here is a link to the recipe we used: Crisp Haricot Vert with Pine Nuts.

THE DINNER SERVED BUFFET STYLE

THE DINNER SERVED BUFFET STYLE

Catherine rounded out the meal with some store bought tortellini with a touch of marinara sauce, a simple salad featuring greens from the garden, some “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomatoes to add to the salad and some artisan bread from our favorite bakery, “Annarosa”.

ARTISAN BREAD FROM ANNAROSA BAKERY

ARTISAN BREAD FROM ANNAROSA BAKERY

A TOAST TO CATHERINE FOR AN OUTSTANDING JOB

A TOAST TO CATHERINE FOR AN OUTSTANDING JOB

We had a great time hosting this tomato tasting and dinner.  Our guests  were enjoyable and we were able to raise money for our church.  Sharing the food we grow and love with other people is one of our favorite activities.  That is why I love gardening.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

Note:  The photos were taken by our friend and professional photographer, Jay McCarthy.  To see more of his work click on this link:    http://natureslightphotography.zenfolio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – 2015

THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER – 2015

A Soggy Day for a Garden Party

The week leading up to the “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” was filled with activity: cleaning the patio, weeding the vegetable garden and all of the gardens surrounding the patio, harvesting, searching out recipes, selecting the proper wines, and tracking the weather.  Mother Nature intervened about an hour before showtime with a downpour.

A VIEW OF THE PATIO IN THE RAIN JUST BEFORE THE START OF THE TOMATO LOVERS' DINNER

A VIEW OF THE PATIO IN THE RAIN JUST BEFORE THE START OF THE TOMATO LOVERS’ DINNER

We went to plan “B”, dinner in the Dining Room.  However, the rain stopped just before everyone arrived.  I wiped off the chairs, threw a table cloth over the coffee table on the deck and conducted the tomato tasting portion of the dinner on the patio before the next downpour.

OUR GUESTS GATHERED AROUND THE COFFEE TABLE FOR A TOMATO TASTING

OUR GUESTS GATHERED AROUND THE COFFEE TABLE FOR A TOMATO TASTING

I poured everyone a glass of “Jumilla”, a Spanish wine made from Monestrell grapes, well known for pairing well with tomatoes and tomato dishes.  Once everyone had settled in, I started the tasting.  We began with a beautiful hybrid tomato called “Betty”.  Deep red and nearly flawless, it got everyone’s attention.  “Hey look at me.  I am the very epitome of what a tomato should look like.”

SLICING A BIG RED TOMATO

OUR FIRST TOMATO OF THE TASTING WAS A LOVELY RED HYBRID CALLED “BETTY”

I cut it in vertical slices and handed them around, encouraging folks to use a bit of salt to enhance the flavor.  There was general consensus that “Betty” was pretty good.  Next up was an heirloom called “Black Krim”, so named because it originated on the Island of Krim in the Black Sea.  The “Black Krim” blew everybody’s head off with it’s taste and texture.  Universal thumbs up.

BLACK KRIM TOMATO

BLACK KRIM TOMATO

This was a deliberate maneuver on my part to illustrate how great the taste difference can be from tomato to tomato.  All of our guests had seconds of the “Black Krim”.  It was now time to introduce them to one of our favorite American heirlooms, “Rose”.  Rose is a cultivar of “Brandywine”, considered by some to be the best tasting tomato.  Brandywine tomatoes are very good, but not very productive.

Rose has Brandywine’s flavor with much better production.  Rose was a big hit with our tasters.  Not the most photogenic looking tomato, our photographer did  not capture an image of this variety.

"NEBRASKA WEDDING" TOMATO

“NEBRASKA WEDDING” TOMATO

After Rose, it was time for a some visual variety.  I introduced our guests to “Nebraska Wedding”, a lovely orange tomato with mild, sweet taste.  The name comes from the practice of giving new brides seeds of this variety as a wedding gift back “in the day”(Eighteen hundreds).  At this point, folks were beginning to pick favorites.  Nebraska Wedding definitely was the favorite of a couple of tasters.

GREEN ZEBRA TOMATO

“GREEN ZEBRA” TOMATO

The visual impact of the Nebraska Wedding tomato was followed up with the introduction of the “Green Zebra” salad tomato.  In addition to it’s unique coloring, the Green Zebra added a crisp citrus-like flavor to contrast with the mild sweetness of the Nebraska Wedding.  Our tasters were starting to have fun with all of these flavors and colors.  Conversation became more animated.  Everyone had opinions and questions.  I was a very happy host.

 

THE TOMATO TASTING WITH EVERYBODY JOINING THE CONVERSATION

THE TOMATO TASTING WITH EVERYBODY JOINING THE CONVERSATION

While on the subject of salad tomatoes, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce my guests to a different looking and tasting variety, “Black Ethiopian”.

A BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATO

A BLACK ETHIOPIAN TOMATO

The seeds for this variety were given to me by my friends Pam and Dave Webb who first got seeds after visiting Gary Ibsen’s “Tomato Fest” headquarters in California.   I think that this is one of the most beautiful pieces of fruit that I grow.  The tomatoes are a deep mahogany color when ripe with slightly green shoulders.  The taste is great with spice notes at the finish – almost like wine.

We wrapped up the tomato tasting with a new variety to me; “hillbilly”.  This is the prototype big ugly tomato that tastes great.  The tomato that I picked for the tasting weighed in at nearly two pounds.

A TWO POUND HILLBILLY TOMATO

A TWO POUND HILLBILLY TOMATO

Hillbilly ripens yellow/golden with red streaks; a fact I had not absorbed from the “gitgo”.  After one tomato got mealy on the vine I thought that it might be prudent to check out what to look for to determine ripeness in a Hillbilly tomato.  Yeah, add this to the “there’s no fool like an old fool” file.

At the time of the tasting, I had yet to experience a Hillbilly tomato.  I admitted this to my tasters and volunteered to try it first.  If I didn’t like it they wouldn’t have to try it.

A PIECE OF HILLBILLY TOMATO SHOWING A RED STREAK

A PIECE OF HILLBILLY TOMATO SHOWING A RED STREAK

I tried it.  I liked it.  Everyone agreed that it was quite different than anything else we had sampled.  Most thought that Hillbilly had a melon-like flavor.  I agree.  Certainly not my personal favorite, it was non-the-less a huge hit with my tasters.  This was truly a fun experience.  I highly recommend hosting a tomato tasting for your friends.

 

To be continued:  Tomato Lovers Dinner Part Two – Dinner

Photos by Jay McCarthy:  You can view other examples of his work  at http://natureslightphotography.zenfolio.com