Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Raw And Saucy: Tomato And Melon Salad & Tomato Sauce

We’re keeping it fresh and clean with a raw tomato salad with melons. And, we’ve got a tomato sauce recipe that will beat anything you can buy from the store.

heirloom tomatoes

Photo: Annie Corrigan (for WFIU)

"Any heirloom tomato sliced with a little bit of kosher salt and some pepper and you just can’t go wrong," says Chef Dave Tallent.

More tomatoes on this week’s podcast. Last week, we made a burst cherry tomato compote and salsa verde with tomatillos.

This week, we’re keeping it fresh with a raw tomato salad with melon. And if you’re still struggling to use up all those tomatoes from your garden, we’ve got a tomato sauce recipe that will beat anything you can buy in the store.

Tomatoes Getting Saucy

“Any heirloom tomato sliced with a little bit of kosher salt and some pepper and you just can’t go wrong. You cannot go wrong,” says Dave Tallent, the chef and owner of Restaurant Tallent in Bloomington, Indiana.

While Tallent says he tries to not cook heirloom tomatoes when they’re fresh in the summer, he will make sauces out of heirloom tomatoes. That’s because he can get them at bulk prices.

He explains that Roma tomatoes are the ones he typically makes sauce or paste out of. “They’re ones that have a little more meat-to-juice ratio, so like those are really good sauce tomatoes.”

More: Interview with Chef Dave Tallent About His Heirloom And Melon Salad

We sent out a call for tomato sauce recipes on the blog this week, and Helen Kopp responded. She says that if you are cooking heirloom tomatoes, just cook them lightly to maintain their flavor.  Simply chop the tomatoes and cook them for 10 minutes.

Helen Kopp’s Simple Tomato Sauce

tomato sauce spoon

Photo: Kitchen Wench (flickr)

Roma tomatoes and heirloom varieties that have more meat to juice are good for making sauces.

Kopp recommends following this recipe if you are going to simmer a sauce for 30 minutes to an hour. “Once you’ve made this tomato sauce,” she says, “you’ll never want to buy another jar from the store again.”

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 6 large tomatoes
  • bay leaf
  • fresh basil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Add chopped onion and garlic to hot olive oil in a large saucepan. Cook until translucent (5 minutes), careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Add chopped carrots and celery.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, fresh basil leaves, and any herbs or spices you like (like red pepper flakes, onion/garlic powder, oregano, thyme, etc).
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
    Remove bay leaf. Add more fresh basil.
  5. Blend in food processor until smooth, and return to the pan. (You can add a tablespoon of margarine, to round out the acidity, if you like).

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Heirloom Tomatoes: Variety Is The Spice of Life

heirloom tomato table

Photo: Annie Corrigan (for WFIU)

Jim Kowaliuk prepares his garden for growing tomatoes in the fall by spreading ash on the ground. This builds nitrogen levels in the soil.

With all the different varieties of heirloom tomatoes out there, it can be difficult to know which varieties are best for slicing and which are best for making sauces. Jim Kowaliuk sells a slew of different heirlooms at the farmers market.

For sauces, he recommends German Stripes or Belgium Giants.

For sandwiches: Cherokee Purples and Hillbillies.

One of his acid-free yellow Hillbilly tomatoes would be completely sliced up on a sandwich, instead of slicing only a portion of a larger tomato.  “Once you break a tomato from its skin,” he explains, “it starts to deteriorate inside.”

Heirloom tomatoes are hardy plants, so Kowaliuk is expecting to pick them from his garden through the first frost.

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Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

tomato melon salad

Photo: Annie Corrigan (for WFIU)

The Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad includes cubes of feta cheese soaked in mint oil.

Ryan Glock is a line cook at Restaurant Tallent.  He says he has made over 100 of these salads in his time working garde manger — making cold sides and salads.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large slices of heirloom tomatoes
  • 6-8 cubes of cantaloupe
  • 6-8 cubes of watermelon
  • 6-8 cubes of feta, soaked in mint oil
  • handful of radish slices
  • handful of cucumber slices
  • mint and tarragon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 2 long artines (thinly sliced and the toasted bread slices) or crackers
  • sea salt and pepper
  • Micro-basil salad as garnish

Directions:

  1. Place three slices of heirloom tomatoes on a plate. Salt and pepper to taste
  2. Mix cantaloupe, watermelon, radishes and cucumbers in a bowl with mint oil and tarragon vinegar. Blend with hands to make the vinaigrette.
  3. Pour fruit and vinaigrette over tomatoes.
  4. Add cubed feta soaked in mint oil.
  5. Place long artine crackers on top of salad.
  6. Garnish the side of the plate with micro-basil shoots and sea salt and pepper.

Mint And Tarragon Vinaigrette

For a basic vinaigrette, add three parts mint oil to one part tarragon vinegar.

Mint Oil

Ingredients:

  • mint
  • parsley
  • canola oil
  • feta cheese, cubed

Directions:

  1. Quickly blanch mint and parsley (10 seconds) then shock in cold water.
  2. Blend mint and parsley with canola oil.
  3. Place feta cubes in mint oil and let it marinate.

Tarragon Vinegar

Ingredients:

  • Champagne vinegar
  • tarragon

Steep tarragon in vinegar for a couple days.

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Tomatoes For Dessert

Tomatoes aren’t limited to savory dishes. Also on the menu is a creation by Dave’s wife and pastry chef, Kristen Tallent. She makes an heirloom tomato sorbet served with a basil semifreddo and little filo crackers that she dusts with basil sugar. That’s all served atop carpaccio-style sliced tomatoes.

“When you first taste it,” Dave Tallent says you taste the tomato and the sweetness, but then – ”your brain is kind of like, ‘Wait a minute, what did I just have?’”

More: Another Tomato Recipe: A New-Look Caprese Salad with Tofu

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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