by Alison Charbonneau
In the last few months of summer, when the sun is hot and the days are long, this is when the ever-popular red tomatoes are at their best. They gorge themselves in the sun; growing ever-more plump, sweet, juicy and delicious.
I think tomatoes are best just the way they are; they take a sandwich from good to great and a salad feels like something of a letdown without them. If you are so inclined, tomatoes can be used in many diverse ways. Stewed they provide the substance in sauces; roasted they deliver a sweet heartiness topped on a pizza; paired with fresh basil they provide a perfect bruschetta bite.
“I tend to lean towards spicy and savory dishes when it comes to tomatoes,” says Randy Felker, chef at Ristorante Rosina. “Smoked tomatoes have always been something I enjoy.” Randy goes on to explain how different varieties are better for different applications. “For salads I generally prefer a vine ripened heirloom tomato where I find most people would use grape or cherry [guilty!]. And for sauces I prefer plum or Roma tomatoes.”
Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes
Store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.
Perfectly ripened tomatoes are generally easy to work with but different techniques can be time consuming. The peeling, seeding and chopping involved in creating tomato concasse is one such technique. This however was of no concern to Chef Randy when he was creating the delicious menu for a Farm to Table dinner hosted earlier this month at Hi-Berry Farm (in collaboration with our friends at the Wismer House and Ristonante Rosina). For the dinner, he turned the simple tomato into the star of the amuse-bouche course’s Lonza wrapped tomato tartar and the best supporting actor in the entrée course as an oven dried field tomato (see recipe below) paired with thyme & pink peppercorn crusted ribeye.
When Jeff Carver (Wismer House) approached me and Luke earlier this summer about hosting this year’s Farm to Table event, we immediately jumped on board. We have attended and loved the previous dinners held in downtown Port Elgin and have always wanted to do an event like this but could never get past the “we should do this” stage.
All Jeff needed was a yes and everything was set in motion. “Moving it to Hi-Berry Farm just made sense, hosting a dinner just steps away from the same fields where the menu was grown takes the connectivity to another level entirely.”
The weather was perfect, the venue was spectacular, the food was unbelievable, and the atmosphere was magical.
Guests were greeted with a drink and an amazing chacutaire board during cocktail hour. Dinner was prepared by chef Randy Felker of Ristorante Rosina based on a locally sourced menu with the produce right from the Farm. After dinner a lovely cheesecake dessert, prepared by Justin Niklaus of Offshore Bakery, was served and enjoyed with coffee by Rabbit Dash while listening to cool jazz provided by the Charlie Bell Quartet.
The Farm to table experience not only brings the freshness of the field right to your table, it brings together a community. Local business came together to put on this great event, members of the community came out to support it and raised some money for a community project.
P.S. Tomatoes are delicious – full stop – and you can enjoy some now at Hi-Berry Farm.
Special Thanks to Melanie Marshall, Cathy Fenton, Laura McInnes, Margaux Bucher, Jill Schildroth, Jeff Carver, Scott Wark, Jon Hepplewhite, Justin Niklaus, Randy Felker and all the other volunteers that made the Farm to Table event something unforgettable.
OVEN DRIED TOMATOES
Slice vine ripened tomato 1/2 to 3/4 inch think.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Gently toss tomatoes in a generous amount of roasted garlic or olive oil and lightly salt.
Lay tomatoes on the baking sheet and place in an oven a preheated to 250 degrees for 3hrs, then flip the tomato slices over and bake for 1 hour more.
These can be used warm or cool in many different ways
Photography by Jill Schildroth
Recipe by Randy Felker