Sunday, August 23, 2009

Despite the blight: Adventures in heirloom tomatoes

"My kingdom for a good tomato", I muttered a few months back.  Summer had arrived but alas my beloved nightshades were just beginning to flower.  I was sick of the cardboard substitutes imported from g-d knows where, and hungered for a ripe, juicy gorgeous tomato to call my own.  July was particularly unsettling, when reports of the record blight seemed to doom this year's crop.  A non-event for the general population, the news sent me straight to the medicine cabinet for some Valium.  Honestly.  

Despite the blight, I have found some wonderful tasting tomatoes this year.  Albeit pricey, as witnessed while on vacation where at one farm stand they weighed my single, impressive find to the tune of $7.50.  Even I have my limits, although I do think about the one that got away from time to time and wonder what if.  

Today however, all the elements aligned and I found fresh, succulent, and well priced tomatoes at the 10th annual Hoboken Heirloom Tomato Festival.  Vendor Catalpa Farms delivered a wide range of goodies, including purple peppers, red oak lettuce, farm fresh eggs, and of course, tomatoes.  I counted more than 20 varieties on hand, and sampled as many.  Favorites included Yellow Brandywine, Striped German, and Prudens Purple.  I also liked the tomatillos and heirloom cherry mix.  More than anything, I enjoyed being in the company of my fellow tomato-philes, none of whom blinked an eye when I packed up 7 1/2 pounds to take home.  At $3.99/pound, it seemed like a bargain.

I arrived home with my loot, which my husband eyed suspiciously.  I heard him muttering something to himself about the fridge real estate and rotten tomatoes, but no matter.  All would be right come dinner time.  In addition to the produce, I brought home a terrific tomato and garlic dip which I enjoyed with crackers.  Once sated, I kept thinking about how I would make it, and proceeded to experiment for a good part of the afternoon until I came up with the below recipe.  I used the Prudens Purple variety because they are sweet with a nice texture that works well against the cheese, but I am sure Roma's would work too.  Now for the other 6 1/2 pounds....

Smoky tomato garlic dip

1 lb of tomatoes (2 or 3 medium size tomatoes), seeded, cored, and rough chopped
6 cloves of garlic
2 tomatillos, rough chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz cream cheese
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 - 1/2 tsp of chipotle pepper (Do this to your own taste.  Note: you need to let the flavor bloom for at least 10 minutes before you really can gage the level of spiciness.)
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped herbs (I like parsley or cilantro)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (roast setting).  Combine tomatoes, garlic, tomatillos, and olive oil on a foil lined pan.  Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. Add ingredients from step one to a food processor and pulse 10 times.
  3. Add goat cheese and cream cheese, and process until smooth. 
  4. Add chipotle pepper, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Pulse twice.  
  5. Top with fresh herbs and serve.

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