Sunday, August 7, 2011

The family jewels

Now, I don't come from wealth. If I have kids one day, the family heirlooms will most likely be in seed form. Bagdad melons, Polish garlic, and a whole lot of tomato varieties. Those are my family jewels. Though most folks have heard of "heirloom" varieties in the context of tomatoes, there is actually a wide variety of heirloom fruits and vegetables from around the globe, carefully cultivated and passed down for generations.

But speaking of heirloom tomatoes, just this morning I was organizing an heirloom tomato tasting with red, green, yellow, orange, and purple varieties at the Bloomingdale farmers' market. Many of these luscious varieties from Snow Bear Farm, Truck Patch Farms, and Reid's Orchard made their way into my cooking demo. Mild White Queens, sweet Hawaiian Pineapples, tart German Greens, mellow Brandywines, Purple Cherokees, Pink Oxhearts... mmm.... Incorporating fresh bread from Panorama Bakery and topped off with fresh fennel fronds and a pat of quark (Keswick Creamery's German-style cream cheese with which I am becoming intimately familiar), the seasonal bruschetta samples were going as quickly as I could crank them out. Not that I was going at a maddening speed, but there wasn't much of a break in the hour and a half demo and when things slowed even a bit I was asked all sorts of questions as I doled out rounds of samples: where can I find these tomatoes? do you grow any of these yourself? which one is your favorite? how did you become a food educator? do you teach adults? do you have any recipes for cold summer soups? (Do I ever....)

It was a lovely way to spend the early part of my Sunday (the late part being absorbed with the Legg Mason tennis tournament finals and a couple pints of beer): working with beautiful produce, preparing and sharing tasty food, encouraging folks to get excited about their new favorite variety of tomato. I could get used to this. Because I ran out of copies at the market, and because some of you, dear readers, were unable to make it to the market this morning for this tasty treat, I thought I might post the recipe here on the blog. (So there are a lot of cooking-oriented posts these days. Can I help it if this is the most bountiful time of the year in terms of fresh produce?)

Here it is, the much sought after

Heirloom Tomato and Summer Peach Bruschetta recipe:


-1 baguette, sliced into ¼ to ½-inch coins
-4-5 heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
-3-4 ripe peaches, peeled, cored, and diced
-1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
-a handful of fennel fronds OR fresh basil, finely chopped
-salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
-optional garnish: 1/4 cup cheese (feta, chevre, quark, grated parmesan, etc.)


Toast bread slices on a cookie sheet in the oven, on the grill, or in batches in a nonstick skillet on the stovetop until golden. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Top each baguette slice with a generous spoonful of the tomato-peach mixture. Top with a sprinkle or dollop of cheese and a spring of basil or fennel. Serve immediately. Don’t expect leftovers.

*The quick version: don’t peel the tomatoes or peaches. Thinly slice baguette, but don’t toast it. Otherwise, proceed as directed. You can also make the tomato-peach mixture a day ahead and store in the fridge.

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