September 19, 2011

At the Heirloom Café...



... your flaws get counted as beautiful.

67 comments:

Almost Ali said...

You may recall that I complained about the poor quality of today's tomatoes (like the ones pictured). Especially since Progresso quit canning... Italian-style tomatoes.

So, if there are any cooks out there/in here who know of a comparable product, kindly post.

DADvocate said...

I grew some Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomatoes last year. They were huge and delicious. I screwed up and killed the sprouts this year. I'll get it right next year. Yum!

traditionalguy said...

Quick, send out for mayonnaise and white bread.

As my whimsy leads me.. said...

And some bacon, Trad-guy!

Toy

Pogo said...

"your flaws get counted as beautiful."

Then I am Apollo.

edutcher said...

Ya got some nice tomatoes there, Madame.

Seriously, that piece from the DC Times saying how GodZero is underwater in a lot of the states that flipped for him in '08 has to have even AP worried.

ricpic said...

Are Heirloom's sweet? My neighbor blesses me with his grape tomatoes from time to time and they're like mainlining sweetness.

MadisonMan said...

My green zebra died this year. I'll try something else next year. My mini sweet peppers are doing great.

Jimmy said...

So who says "tah-may-toe" and who says "tah-mah-toe"?

My grandmother said "tah-may-ter"

She grew up in St. Paul, MN.

LordSomber said...

I always liked Jersey tomatoes, which aren't an actual variety, but a type of Beefsteak, Ramapo or hybrid.

veni vidi vici said...

Why do they call them "heirloom"? Is that part of the same price-inflating flatus that calls bread and cheese "artisanal"? It sounds pretty damned pretentious for what my folks used to call "gardening", if that's all it is.

Moreso for "baking" and "cheese". Seriously, "artisanal"?


wv: "abappe" -- an Italian expression of carnal love.

Carol_Herman said...

Those aren't flaws!

I call them "stretch marks." All fruits that have them are more deliciously sweet than others.

How do I know? My taste buds told me.

Christy said...

A cousin has a small ancient orchard of the ugliest apples you ever saw - yellow and brown and spotted. They are delicious! No way this apple could ever sell in the market - even the organic folks wouldn't touch such ugly fruit. Would a diseased tree produce delicious fruit?

Do you figure our standards for picking fruit and veggies reflects our standards for picking presidents?

ndspinelli said...

Almost Ali, Try the tomatoes that Costco carries, although I've seen them elsewhere. They're imported Nina brand..San Marzano pomodori. Costco just sells the big 6 lb. cans, but I've seen the regular sized cans in other venues. I've got 3 in my pantry most of the time. I'll make bigger batches of sauce and freeze it.

Pogo said...

"Would a diseased tree produce delicious fruit?"

That is what I tell people, anyway.

Shanna said...

My neighbor blesses me with his grape tomatoes from time to time and they're like mainlining sweetness

I usually dislike grape tomatoes, but am in love with the little round yellow ones! Sadly, I can only find them for a brief period of time. But if I think about it next year I might try to grow some. They are like candy!

Marica said...

Veni vidi vici,veni vidi vici, veni vidi vici... They're called "heirloom" because they are old(ish) varieties. In a lot of cases commercial growers have stopped growing them choosing instead to grow hybrids (nothing wrong with those), and genetically modified varieties.

Heirlooms are true-- meaning that if you plant a seed from an heirloom tomato, it will grow up to produce tomatoes just like its parent.

And there's nothing hoity toity about heirlooms-- basically they just taste a whole lot better than those cardboard things at Kroger.

traditionalguy said...

Heirloom eminent domain cases like Kelo v. New Haven have matured to the point of a State Supreme Court Justice now apologizing to Susan Kelo.

What hath God wrought?

The liberal/governmental complex is dying before our eyes.

NYTNewYorker said...

Almost Ali-

I don't know if this is what you're looking for but Cooks Illustrated two top rated tomato brands were....

Redpack Whole Peeled Tomatoes in Thick Puree

"Tasters liked the bold acidity and the full flavor of our winner."

Also,

Hunt's Whole Tomatoes

"On tasting the quick sauce, one panelist said, "This one tastes the most like ripe, fresh tomatoes." But a few tasters found Hunt’s too mild in the long-simmered sauce."

Here on Long Island we are well satisfied with the Red Pack brand.

Hagar said...

Might as well get this off my chest.

About these media types gettin all in a tizzy about the 4-star general opposing the FCC granting approval for this whatever it is system that may interfere with our GPS system which is detrimental to our national security, etc., blah, blah, blah.

Naturally liberal Democrats may very well be OK with the USAF not being able to pinpoint Ghadafi with smart bombs, but don't any of these people have any notion of how our civilian industries, including themselves and their "smart phones," are dependent on the GPS system?

ndspinelli said...

Grape tomatoes make a great, simple sauce. Roast a couple quarts w/ 2 bulbs of garlic. Just put the tomatoes, garlic in a roasting pan. Coat liberally w/ olive oil, then salt/pepper. Roast @ 425 for ~45 minutes..until the tomatoes start getting dark. Let this cool. Peel the garlic and put the tomatoes and garlic in a large bowl. Mash well w/ a potato masher and then stir in 2 handfuls of fresh basil and a handful of good parmesan. Cook a meatier pasta like rigatoni or ziti. Add the cooked pasta[w/ a cup of pasta water] to this sauce and simmer ~ 10 minutes. This is the perfect time of year since the tomatoes and basil are plentiful.

Fred4Pres said...

The best tomatoes are from Jersey.

NYTNewYorker said...

Almost Ali, when I use canned tomato I always take the hard part of tomato shoulder off by hand if it has one.

This only takes a few minutes but makes a big difference in the consistency of the sauce as the tender parts don't have to overcook waiting for the harder parts to become tender.

ndspinelli said...

NYT, I agree about Hunts for a quick sauce..they do taste fresh for canned tomatoes.

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred4Pres said...

For canned, I have found Trader Joe's canned romas to be pretty good for sauce.

This time of year I will also get a box of ripe beefsteaks (romas would work too) and slice, give each a small pinch of Italian seasoning and kosher salt, and dehydrate them. Then when cool I bag them, squeeze the air out, and put them in the freezer. They keep great and are great in sauces for extra flavor.

Fred4Pres said...

You can get 20-25 lbs boxes of tomatoes now for about $15 (less if you are near a real farm community).

Fred4Pres said...

LordSomber. Heirlooms taste better when grown in New Jersey. There is something about the right combination of soil, heat, and humidity that makes good tomatoes.

NYTNewYorker said...

ndspinelli-

Yes and since we only get fresh once a year a good canned tomato makes do for the rest.

That's a nice little grape tomato recipe and my farm stand has been getting outstanding grape tomato's all season now, gotta try it!

NYTNewYorker said...

Hey! I just found a small piece of Pancetta to go in with them.

Carol_Herman said...

I remember a show Julia Child did. She was going to excoriate the big fat American (beefsteak) tomatoes.

She slices a tomato. And, tastes it. Her head nearly pops with joy! (She is also so surprised!)

But she came out and said ... if truth be known ... those commercial tomatoes were just excellent.

Richard said...

Are those Brandywine?

NYTNewYorker said...

Fred, I'll have to look the Trader Joe's romas next time I'm there.

Michael said...

We have a variety here in the south that are known as "ugly tomatoes" Excellent taste and excellent branding. Raised in Fla I believe.

Traditionalguy, I now forgo the mayo and use olive oil. Salt. Pepper. White bread. Yum.

Coketown said...

Heirloom tomatoes always remind me of my first day working at a gardening center. Someone asked the difference between heirloom and hybrid and I didn't know. Then someone else asked where the "toma-tee-ohs" were, and I was a young smartass and was about to say in a flippant tone, "Do you mean tomatoes?" As though they misread the sign on the door about our tomato sale. And of course retail clerks always think customers are damned retards. Thank GOD my manager was behind me and intercepted before I could make a fool of myself. Tomatillo. Learn it, love it.

From then on I've learned the value of verbal prudence.

Titus said...

I did it in a tomato patch a couple of times.

Fred4Pres said...

Brandywines are great tomatoes. They need hot humid temperatures to get decent though. Otherwise they do not ripen or set properly.

I found a tomato cage ripped out of the ground. I thought the kids did it. But I looked out the window last night and saw a buck eating the green tomatoes off the vines. He must have gotten his antlers caught in one of the cages the night before.

I never had problems with deer eating tomatoes before (they seem to perfer apples and stuff like that). Go figure.

Fred4Pres said...

NYTNYorker, the canned tomatoes at Trader Joe's are whole romas with basil (salted or unsalted). I am good with either, just adjust the salt accordingly.

TJ's marinara sause is fine too, but it costs a bit more and I suspect it is just the pured romas.

Mortgage Lifters are very good. Big, tasty and productive.

Brandywine may be the best tasting, but often limited production per plant.

Cherokee Purples are a close second to Brandywine in flavor and fairly productive.

Green Zebras are fine. Pineapples are good too. I like them along with some golden and yellow ones for variety of color. I get the grape and cherry tomatoes for variety of sizes too.

The Russian varieties I tried were disappointing.

The big old hybrid beefsteaks tend to be the most reliable in terms of disease resistance and production. Flavor is very very good (although not as good as Brandywines and Cherokees).

Fred4Pres said...

Tomato salad with smoked lox salmon is very very good. Obama turned me on to that (it was one of the dishes served at the WH). I think the smoked salmon tomato may have also been one of those NYT summer salads that Ann promoted two years ago.

This is off topic, but Mark Bittman had a recipe for grilled watermellon. I tried it and damn if it was not interesting. You cut a wedge (without rind) and grill it like a hamburger.

Coketown said...

I didn't realize heirlooms would make Fred4pres go all Carol Herman on us.

BJM said...

@AlmostAli

what nd said...also look for Cento San Marzano tomatoes, you can get them at Whole Foods and some ethnic or discount grocery stores, even Dollar has them from time to time.

Search Amazon for San Marzano tomatoes and you'll find a range of brands.

Or try Pomi crushed tomatoes, which is a chunky meaty puree packed in antiseptic boxes that are also sold at a lot of the places mention above.

NYTNewYorker said...

Now that I think about it I'd think the sugar would make nice grill marks.

LordSomber said...

Fred4Pres said...
LordSomber. Heirlooms taste better when grown in New Jersey. There is something about the right combination of soil, heat, and humidity that makes good tomatoes.


It seems to be some combination because the sandy soil of S. Jersey is nothing like N. Jersey's soil, yet people love them all regardless of where in the state they're grown.

Fred4Pres said...

Coketown, Hey!

Wordy like Carol, but unlike Ms. Herman I know what I am talking about when it comes to tomatoes!

LordSomber, true about south and north jersey (the soils are very different). There used to be a lot of tomato canneries and big farms in south jersey because land was inexpensive there. Tomatoes are very good in the south. But South Jersey sandy acidic pine barren soils are really more suited for blueberries and cranberries than tomatoes.

North Jersey were where the truck farms were, supplying produce to New York. Most of those are gone now, but you can still find a few growing tomatoes commerical for roadside stands. And of course, there are still many back yard growers. The best tomatoes, in my opinion, come from North Jersey.

Almost Ali said...

ndspinelli said...
Almost Ali, Try the tomatoes that Costco carries [Nina]...

Thanks, I'll definitely keep my eye open for the brand.

When I was young[er] it never occurred to me that the recipe(s) I learned from my Italian neighbor(s) would eventually "expire" - that the main ingredient, tomatoes by Progresso, would simply disappear. The old women must be spinning in their graves.

NYTNewYorker, I've tried Redpack, and it's better than most. But "Hunt's"!?! - I was admonished to avoid like the plague! That's what the Italian women told me 50 years ago - that if I were spotted walking through the neighborhood carrying anything "Hunt's" - I would be banished forever! Even sent back to Ireland!

But things change, all those great cooks from the old country are long gone - so I'll give Hunts a try trusting that Mrs Pisani's ghost won't jump out of the sauce pot!

Shanna said...

This is off topic, but Mark Bittman had a recipe for grilled watermellon. I tried it and damn if it was not interesting.

Really? I can't imagine it being better than normal watermelon.

Our farmers market had this summer series of chefs making little appetizers this year and one of them made a grilled peach with proscutto, goat cheese, and some sort of balsamic vinegar reduction. It was heaven.

Shanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Almost Ali said...

Thanks also to Fred and BJM! I'm getting re-educated!

A word about San Marzano; I've tried various types/brands but was always disappointed. They make a "good" sauce, but Progresso resulted in a great sauce. And there was no secret, at least among the experts (the Italian women) - the original Progresso used tomatoes exclusively from Vineland, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, many thanks for all the input! I'll be sure to update if I hit the jackpot!

Cedarford said...

veni vidi vici said...
Why do they call them "heirloom"? Is that part of the same price-inflating flatus that calls bread and cheese "artisanal"?
========================
No, as mentioned, they are heirloom because they are non-hybridized and breed true and are varieties that once flourished in our past or other countries past (and up to today in less mechanized agriculture nations).

I grew up in the 70s, and I remember Mom got tomatoes in the 3-pack "Cello" variety from year-round mechanized farms. None of us kids could stand tomatoes. Pink, tennis ball sized each and every one, and no taste. Then in the late 70s we grew beefsteaks and THEY were 500% better - we thought them a special late summer treat as good or better than sweet corn.

American industry badly messed up in pushing the mechanized, standard size Cello tomato. Great for farmers, great for megastore supermarket chain stores or the McDonalds and Burger King slicer machines. Ease in packaging,impervious to bruising, near infinite shelf storage life. But at the most basic level, an awful, low quality produce item.

Then one of the few good things of hippiedom, turned out to be the "back to the local farm, crop growing commune" bit. People not only got fresher produce from the farmer's markets...but they were introduced to awesome things supermarkets rejected stocking. Huge delicate bursting with rose aroma and sweetness white peaches, mild white eggplants with no bitterness, others...and the heirloom tomatoes that so many go to the market to get over anything but the superior sweet corn varieties.

One bite of a fresh heirloom tomato is enough to convert you to prefer them over the beefsteak and shudder when you pass by the 3 pack Cello tomatos they still sell in supermarkets.

Fred4Pres did an earlier post that gave a great descriptor of some of the heirloom tomato varieties.

Fred4Pres said...

Shanna, grilled peaches are awesome. I just tried a mix of peaches and Italian prunes with country pork ribs. The prunes get all red from the heat. The sweet balances nicely with the pork.

Grilled watermellon is worth trying only because you generally have plenty of watermellon and you can spare a few slabs for grilling.

It is different. Not better, but definitely not bad.

Cedarford said...

Overseas, the best tomatoes I ever had were in Spain and Italy in regions that are warmer than NJ. More like northern Alabama and Georgia.
The varieties were Italian, and supposedly perfected centuries ago for flavor in cooking, sauces, and eating straight and unaltered since.
In a way, the true Italian strains grown in NJ are also true heirloom tomatoes and their flavor is immense. (But in our American way, we tampered with and hydridized the Roma tomato variant you see in supermarkets. Thick, pithy fruit walls, bland....nothing like a real Italian Roma. Get the ones they grow for spaghetti sauce makers and you get closer to the real Roma the Italians eat.)

Elliott A said...

The key to growing tomatoes is drainage, no matter where you are. Southern clay soils are notoriously bad and the plants rot when the heavy rains of August come. When you till up your tomato garden next spring, get a few bags of sand and mix it in. Make sure there are 6 inches of loose soil under the tomatoes Plant up to their necks! You get good roots that way.
My plants survived Irene and are now loaded with flowers for another run. More tomatoes in early November!
If you grow cherry tomatoes, they make great quick sauces. Nothing from a can can match the real thing. Also, Romas grow easily and you can easily get a pot of sauce out of 75 or so.
Warning!! If you grow your own you will never buy them in a store again.

Fred4Pres said...

Ceadarford, New Jersey tends to be balmy for July and August and pretty humid. Alabama and Georgia have a longer growing season. But unlike Alabama and Georgia, the nights are slightly cooler (although still on the sticky side). Tomatoes like it hot but they did evolve in the Andes with hot dry days and cool nights.

I am not sure if that makes a difference or not with the tomatoes. Drainage is important for tomatoes.

Paddy O said...

Qwikster!

pm317 said...

ndspinelli said...
--------------

I sprinkle a few grape tomatoes on the top of a lasagna for roasting..

Rick said...

As a member of an IL Garden Club for the past 21 years, I can tell you that the cherry tomato called SunGold consistently wins our tomato taste testing contests.

Other favorites are: Heirlooms Brandywine and Prudens Purple, Cosmonaut Volkov (named after a Russian Cosmonaut that fell through space), Paul Robeson (named after the Black, Communist Musician), Pineapple (weighs about 1 lb., and is absolutely beautiful when sliced), San Marzano, Giant Belgium, Black Russian.............

Gosh, I could go on and on. (I grew 12 varieties from seed this year.)

Fred4Pres said...

PaddyO, can I get heirloom tomatoes with my DVD picks?

PETER V. BELLA said...

Sliced with olive oil, onions, fresh basil, and oregano. A good hearty crusty bread. One of God's great meals.

Am I allowed to say God here?

John Burgess said...

Almost Ali: My market as Cento brand Italian tomatoes in cans. Both the San Marzano and plum tomatoes are good.

Paddy O said...

Fred4Pres, indeed. For an extra $10.99 a month, but you'll have to choose your tomatoes from a separate website called tomatosy.com. From their you'll be able to choose up to 3 cherry tomatoes a month. Yes, I know, you wanted heirloom tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes are easier to ship, and so for your convenience we are deciding you'll like those better.

Also for your convenience, you'll have three different bills.

MadisonMan said...

Tomatillo. Learn it, love it.

They are a pain to grow. You need several plants -- and they sprawl horribly -- to get a good crop at one time.

Karl said...


Looks like heirlooms are hot this year

Why can't we buy good tomatoes?
Visit far southern Florida where ripe tomatoes have no value. The "good ones" are dark green and hard as cue balls. That's what we get. You can walk into the fields and pick all the ripe ones you want.

Guy Clark nailed it.
"Two things that money can't buy - true love and home grown tomatoes."

Almost Ali said...

John Burgess said...
Almost Ali: My market has Cento brand Italian tomatoes in cans.

They're next on my list, thanks, and thanks for the link - I never realized they produced a full line (ie plums, puree, paste). Even better, they say they're from New Jersey - which means they should know the difference between good and great.

Onward!

rhhardin said...

Walk in the rain video

AllenS said...

The best canned tomatoes that I've found are from a brand called Contadina.

MadisonMan said...

Frabonis in Madison has excellent canned tomatoes.

Heck, they have excellent everything :) Their mozzarella is superb and dirt cheap.

BJM said...

@Allen S

Yes, Contadina's puree makes a very tasty slow cooked ragu...the acidity has an affinity for sauages and braciole.