All About the Heirlooms

The other day someone had brought in a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and left them up for grabs.  At first, I only took one, leaving the others for someone else to take.  But the next day, the tomatoes were still looking for a home, so I just had to take them too.  I love tomatoes of all kinds, and I love tomatoes in just about everything, fixed in all different  ways.  But there is something even more appealing to me about the heirloom tomatoes.  I love how they come in all colors and are often in funky shapes and sizes.  They are all natural tomatoes, and are naturally pollenated.  They may not always look like the prettiest tomatoes, but they sure are the best tasting tomatoes.

This big green heirloom tomato was the first tomato I brought home.  Look at the size of it.  It is almost as big as my pumpkins.

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I brought home and purchased a few more Heirloom tomatoes, knowing I wanted to make this delicious Heirloom tomato salad.  After letting the green tomato sit for a couple of days, it has changed colors from a bright, vivid green, to a beautiful sunshine yellow.

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Tomatoes are considered “new world” foods.  They originated in both Mexico and Central America, and have been raised by both the Incas and the Aztecs since around 700 A.D.  When the Spanish came to the new world, they took tomatoes back to the old world, where they soon became very popular there as well.  For the most part, they did not become a staple in American gardens or American tables until the 1800’s, though they were popular where there Native Americans or people from “New America” resided.

Because tomatoes are so well loved around the world, they need to be transported. But tomatoes were originally very fragile and did not transport particularly well.  After WWII, the roads, highways and railways were much better and allowed food and goods to be transported much more easily than before.  It was also around this time that people decided to create hybridization programs which would allow tomatoes to be more easily transported.  Many great things came from these hybridization programs, but people were also saying that tomatoes were losing their characteristics and flavors.  So people started saving seeds and created seed banks.  Heirloom tomatoes were born form these seed banks, as well as from immigrants coming in from all over the world, bringing their tomato varietals with them.  Today, there are about 80% less tomato varieties than there were in 1910, but because of these seed banks and new varieties coming from many various parts of the world, once again, we are seeing a lot more variations and types of tomatoes.  I say, “bring in the tomatoes”.

So since my kitchen was now growing Heirloom tomatoes, I needed to create recipes that would showcase all the flavors and characteristics.  I made this fantastic salad that did just that.  The tomatoes were orange, red, green and gold.  They were definitely the stars of the meal.  They were super juicy and full of flavor.  You can eat this salad as a side dish, all on its own, or you can make it a main meal by adding either chicken or ahi tuna.  I added grilled chicken.  I served my salad over a bed of spinach, along with some warmed bread and a light white blend.  It was a quick and easy, deliciously healthy meal.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Grilled Chicken

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1- 2 lbs of chicken or ahi tuna

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup sherry vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

2 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP honey

1 1/2 TBSP garlic

1 tsp salt

1-2 tsp black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, stems removed

2 lbs of assorted Heirloom tomatoes, cut in large wedges

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

shaved Parmigiano for topping, optional

 

Combine the vinegars, olive oil, garlic and seasonings together, and whisk well.

Make enough of the sherry vinaigrette to marinate your chicken or tuna in as well as for the salad.  Combine the tomatoes and onions and mix well.  Pour in enough vinaigrette to give a lot of flavor without over powering or drowning out the flavors of the tomatoes or making them soggy.

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Pour some of the dressing over the chicken or the tuna and let marinate for at least 1 hour before cooking.

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Once the chicken or tuna is cooked, assemble your salad.  I put mine all on top of a bed of spinach, then topped the chicken with a bit more dressing and some shaved Parmigiano cheese.  The tomato flavors just popped out.  DELICIOUS!!!!

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Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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