Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Tomato season is in full swing at the Culver City Farmers Markets.

Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, pear-shaped roma tomatoes, gigantic beefsteaks tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes from a pale yellow to a deep reddish brown and all shades in between. This week, I bought a total of six different types of heirloom tomatoes from four different stands. My friend from New York stocked up cherry tomatoes, great for eating out of hand or for adding whole to salads.

On the west side of the market, you’ll find red grape tomatoes – a favorite of my cousin Kim, who swears they are the sweetest tomato ever. A number of stands have the traditional red cherry tomatoes, which I adore. Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are so good you could eat a hundred and still want more. Over on the east side of Main Street, you’ll find delicious orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes – a cross between Sweet 100’s and an heirloom orange. The same stand offers baskets of minature mixed heirloom tomatoes for a mere $3.00.

Today’s Fresh From the Farm features a number of tomato recipes, from the simple to the elaborate. You’ll find the avocados, fresh oregano, chives, lemons, red onions, and olive oil you need at Farmers Market stalls.

Avocado and Heirloom Tomato Salad
(serves 4)

2 large avocados, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 large heirloom tomatoes, approx. 1 – 1 1/2 lbs. total, cut into wedges
1 T. chopped chives
1/2 lemon
1/2 lb. Mesculan mix or baby arugula
salt to taste

Rinse and dry the mesculan or arugula. Place a small amount on each of four salad plates. Arrange slices of avocados and wedges of heirloom tomatoes on plates. Sprinkle with chives. Drizzle juice of 1/2 lemon over avocado wedges. Salt lightly, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Cannellini, Onion, Tomato, and Oregano Salad
(serves 4)

2 c. cooked cannellini (Italian white beans), well drained

3/4 c. virgin olive oil
2 large firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 c. firmly diced red onion
2 T. fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (if using dried, use only 2 t., crumbled)
1 T. aged balsamic vinegar

To peel tomatoes, boil a pan of water. Place tomatoes in the boiling water for approximately one minute. Remove tomatoes, and immediately place them in cold water. The skin should peel off easily. After seeding the tomatoes, dice them into pieces about the same size as the cannellini. Place the cannellini and olive oil in a small bowl. Toss with the tomatoes, red onion, oregano, and balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Adopted from Cucina Fresca, by La Place and Kleiman.)

Tomato Soup with Cloves
(serves 4)

8 medium-sized tomatoes, unpeeled, cut up (large Celebrity tomatoes would be good in this recipe, or 4 large red Brandywine heirloom tomatoes)
2 c. water
1 t. sugar for each cup of tomato juice
the smallest amount of powered cloves possible
salt to taste

This is an Alan Hooker recipe from the 1970’s, and is elegant in its simplicity.

Boil the tomatoes in 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes. While still hot, put into muslin cloth (I’ve used double layers of cheesecloth) and hang to drain as you would do while making jelly.

Measure the drained juice. Add one teaspoon sugar for each cup of juice. Stick the tip of a paring knife into a jar of powdered cloves. Make sure that only a little bit of powered cloves is on the tip. Add it to the tomato juice. Stir. Taste. The taste should be subtle and bright, with a dominant tomato flavor and just a hint of cloves. Add a very small amount of powered cloves, if necessary. Salt to taste.
This can be served hot or cold. I prefer to serve it cold, garnished with a few thin circles of Persian or Armenian cucumber slices.

The Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market is held from 2 to 7 pm on Tuesdays on Main Street, between Venice and Culver Boulevards. The Culver South Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. In the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot between Hannum and Slauson Aves.

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