AUGUST 2017 – It’s August and that means one thing: Tomatoes are fully in season! Sure, plenty of vegetables scream summer, but there’s something about having fresh tomatoes straight from the market that gets us really excited. At Cindy’s, our chefs source tomatoes from a few places, including Leaning Shed Farm in Michigan, MightyVine greenhouse-grown tomatoes in Rochelle, Ill.; and also up on our new roof garden we installed in early July with gardener Sara Gasbarra of Verdura Gardens. But during summer, when all the local farmers’ bounty comes in, we love hitting the farmers markets and getting our share to use in all sorts of ways. We marinate tomatoes. We dehydrate tomatoes. We cook tomatoes into jams and so much more.
At brunch, your smoked salmon/lox platter will feature the absolute ripest heirloom tomatoes, sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper. We’ll slice cherry tomatoes before marinating them in garlic, shallot and confectioners sugar and bake them low and slow. What emerges after a long bake in a dry oven is what chef de cuisine Keith Potter calls a “wonderfully intense dehydrated confit tomato petal that makes our BLT tartine outstanding.” In case your interest in that tartine is piqued, and we think it likely is, it also features bacon aioli and avocado mousse alongside grilled focaccia.
Another French cooking method we enjoy using is to concasse the tomatoes, which involves scoring, blanching, peeling and seeding the tomatoes, adding them to white wine, shallot, garlic and a little sugar before stewing them to create our lovely tomato jam for the Parisienne gnocchi.
For dinner, we’ll employ toybox cherry tomatoes, sungolds and multiple heirloom varieties all sliced and marinated in a white balsamic shallot vinaigrette for our burrata platter, which also has olive, cucumber, cherry and elderflower honey. It sounds deliciously decadent because it is! Look for Chef Potter to include a gnocchi dish at dinner with tomatoes, smoked ham and crème fraiche, as well as a brick chicken entrée that features Green Circle chicken served over summer ratatouille and tomato jam.
Tomatoes are nothing new to Chef Potter. In fact, he said eating them always takes him back to his childhood.
“I will always go back to my favorite preparation: Summer dinner set at my childhood home and my mother’s tomatoes sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper,” Potter said. “Nothing can touch that flavor. I also love the smell of tomato vines and hope one day to capture that aroma in a pesto. I am eccentric. I get it!”