Sorry people, I am not ready to give up on one of my summer foods yet. For me that one summer food is heirloom tomatoes. An heirloom tomato is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics. Since “heirloom” varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes. I have broken them down to four different categories.
- Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation.
- Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.
- Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.
- Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties
Those orange looking orbs they call “tomatoes” in the store can’t compare in taste compared to heirlooms. They are mostly sold at the local farmer’s markets. Think of them as the Cadillac of tomatoes. Check out a couple of my favorite recipes using these tasty summer tomatoes.
Heirloom Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad
Heirloom tomatoes, sliced
Fresh basil, leaves carefully chopped as not to bruise
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Assemble the salad with slices of tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella slices. Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil over the salad. Add a dash of vinegar and a very light sprinkling of salt and pepper. For a completely different flavor, you can substitute the mozzarella with thin slices of Parmesan.
Shrimp and Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Salsa
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1.5 ounces masa harina (about 1/3 cup)
1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh corn kernels, divided (about 4 large ears)
1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 large egg
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
Combine first 8 ingredients; set aside.
Weigh or lightly spoon flours into measuring cups. Combine flours, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper in a bowl.
Place 1 1/2 cups corn and next 4 ingredients (through egg) in the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth. Combine pureed corn mixture, remaining 1 1/2 cups corn, bell pepper, shrimp, green onions, and garlic in a large bowl. Add flour mixture, stirring gently until moist.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 4 (1/4-cup) batter mounds to pan, pressing each with the back of a spatula to slightly flatten; cook for 3 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly cooked. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure twice with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and batter. Serve with salsa.
David Blackmon is the chef/owner of The Culinary Solution (Private Event Chefs for Hire). Photo credit by Gardentherapy.ca