There is nothing wrong with beautiful, red tomatoes, but why not branch out into the realm of colorful heirloom tomatoes.
They are often referred to as the “ugly tomato”. With their delicate skin, they usually have scars and cracks that do not deter from their flavor. They were not bred for shipping like today’s red tomatoes are. To be considered an heirloom tomato, it must be a tomato variety from seeds that have been passed down for at least 50 years.
Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of colors with equally colorful names. Brandywines are the most popular heirloom tomato, and come in pink and yellow. They are large and flavorful with just enough juice so you don’t get a soggy sandwich.
Cherokee Purple tomatoes are a deep purple/red and are extremely juicy. Ox Hearts are very meaty heart shaped tomatoes. There are Mortgage Lifters, Box Car Willies, Arkansas Travelers, Black Russians, Constoluto Genovese, Hillbilly, and the list goes on.
Yellow tomatoes have less acid due to their color, so make for a milder, sweeter tomato. Look for Sun Gold and Sun Sugar varieties. San Marzano, a plum tomato type, are best for tomato sauce.
Here are a few of my favorite tomato recipes. Of course, you can make all these recipes with the regular red tomato, but heirlooms take your dish from average to beautiful.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD
1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
1 c. colored grape tomatoes, halved
sea salt, or kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
⅓ c. crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Arrange tomatoes in a salad bowl and sprinkle with salt, and pepper. Add onions over the tomatoes.
In a small mixing bowl combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic; drizzle over salad and gently toss to combine.
Taste for salt and/or vinegar; adjust to taste. Top the salad with crumbled feta.
Garnish with chopped basil and parsley. Serve and enjoy!
COUNTRY STYLE TOMATOES
4 large tomatoes (Brandywines are great.
1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. 2% milk
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Cut each tomato into four thick slices; place on paper towels to drain. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, parsley, basil, garlic (and/or any herbs that you like) and salt until blended. Spread cream cheese mixture over eight tomato slices and top with remaining tomato slices.
Place flour and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. In another bowl, whisk egg and milk. Coat the top and bottom of each sandwich with flour, dip into egg mixture, then coat with crumbs.
In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Fry tomato sandwiches in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
BAKED PARMESAN BASIL HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
3 large heirloom tomatoes sliced 1/4-in thick
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
Place tomatoes in a single layer on a greased baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle cheeses evenly over tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
Broil tomatoes on high heat for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes are blistered slightly and cheese is bubbly and golden. Remove tomatoes from oven and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve immediately while warm.
By Karen E. Viereck, Editor/Publisher