Tomato recipe contest showcases season’s best
Last Saturday was the annual Tomato Festival at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market. Despite the rainclouds and occasional sprinkles, visitors and locals alike surrounded the tasting table to sample tomatoes. A selection of more than eighty heirlooms and hybrids went far beyond traditional red globes, ranging widely in color and size, all of them juicy and loaded with fresh-picked flavor. My favorite part of the day was the recipe contest: I was invited to join the judges’ panel.
Four additional judges, talented chefs from popular restaurants, included: Rebecca Williams (Pastry Chef at the Buttery), Dennis Marcoux (Chef at Dogfish Head), Jen Blakeman (Executive Chef at FishOn!) and Ian Crandall (Chef/Owner at Kindle). In the photo you can see us diligently considering one of the entries.
Before we sat down to taste the various dishes, we had the chance to see how the cooks presented their finished products. This helped us decide who would receive the blue ribbon for Best Presentation. Two other awards were Best Use of market products and Best Taste. In addition to assessing those three characteristics, we had to select the first, second and third overall winners who would receive prizes along with their ribbons.
This year, the market volunteers gave us the submitted recipes (maintaining anonymity by removing names) to consult as we tasted and jotted notes on our score sheets. Ten total points could be earned for a perfect score: four for taste, four for use of market ingredients (especially tomato) and two for presentation. We started with the appetizers (there were no soups this year) followed by entrees and finally the desserts.
While we had minor disagreements about individual reactions to some flavors and textures, the group of judges had similar opinions about the winners. Fred Chase’s Tomato Tarte Tatin earned a blue ribbon for best presentation: glistening rounds of caramelized tomato on puff pastry, accessorized with a fluted bowl of lavender scented whipped cream. Maureen Eschbach included ingredients from a cross section of market vendors, earning a blue ribbon for featuring fresh market products in her Heirloom Tomato and Peach Caprese Salad.
Laura Bynum entered an inventive combination of carrots, green tomatoes and oranges whisked into a cake batter and topped with mascarpone frosting to win Third place overall, earning praise from one of the judges “I could eat this all day long.” Second place overall went to Beth Heid’s Quinoa-Stuffed Tomato shown in the photo. Several judges commented on the perfectly cooked quinoa nestled in the tomato shell, “I love quinoa, this is beautiful”.
The dish we judges kept calling ‘mayo’ had a much longer title over the recipe: Warm Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes with Twin Post Farms Mayonnaise and Tarragon Gremolata. Learning Ed St. Jean won the blue ribbon for Best in the Taste category and First Place overall would come as no surprise to anyone lucky enough to have a forkful.
Creamy mayonnaise, a lovely balance of sharp and smooth notes, had been whisked into a luxurious texture. Blanching tamed the garlic in the tarragon gremolata and the concentrated flavor of roasted tomatoes complemented slices of fresh tomato. “Homemade mayo, I can’t believe it, this is so good.”
I’ve included Ed’s recipe for those of you who would like to recreate his winning dish. Congratulations to all the clever cooks who gave us a delicious tomato morning at the market.
Warm Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes with Twin Post Farms Mayonnaise and Tarragon Gremolata
First Place Winner of the 2012 HLFM Tomato Festival
1 1/2 lb tomatoes
2 t olive oil
1 shaved garlic clove
leaves of 1 thyme stem
leaves of 1 tarragon stem
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 225 F. Wash tomatoes and cut into quarters. Place them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Arrange tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 4 hours, turning after two hours to caramelize both sides.
2 T minced tarragon
1 T minced parsley
zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves blanched garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
Combine all ingredients; set aside until ready to use.
2 Twin Post Farms egg yolks
1 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t whole grain mustard
6 oz canola oil
4 1/2 oz light olive oil
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 t white wine vinegar
salt and white pepper, to taste
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Whisk together egg yolks and mustards. Slowly pour in the oils, whisking to emulsify. Stir in lemon, vinegar, salt and pepper.
4 heirloom tomatoes
Old World Breads baguette
Slice tomatoes 1/4 inch thick. Arrange slices in the center of a white plate. Top with generous dollops of mayonnaise followed by the (still warm) roasted tomatoes. Drizzle with tarragon gremolata and a scattering of cracked pepper. Serve with slices of bread. Yield: 8 servings.
Check the Historic Lewes Farmers Market website for other recipes and photos: historiclewesfarmersmarket.org.