This past Saturday I won the rotten tomato award. Well, not exactly. It was more like a bushel of heirlooms that had some bruises and might otherwise be thrown out.
As I was purchasing some heirloom tomatoes and a yellow doll watermelon (more on that later in the week), the vendor, Rainbow Hill Farm, showed me the bushel of tomatoes she couldn’t sell. It just about broke my heart. I hate to see food getting wasted, but especially food these farmers work so hard to grow.
Heirloom tomatoes, in all their sweet glory, are not bred for going bumpety bump across the country, or even the county. But, they are far superior in flavor to mass produced tomatoes that can take a shove or two. Often called the ugly tomato, they are anything but ugly in my eyes, and I couldn’t wait to get home and go through the bushel.
Some were too bruised and had to be discarded. But, in most cases I was able to save 50-75% of them. I made three dishes immediately. A bruschetta, a tomato marmalade, and this tomato basil panzanella.
Our cooking group was supposed to make a more traditional panzanella from Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Classical Italian Cooking,, but it was not for my taste, as I just couldn’t eat the raw onion or the pink bread, caused by soaking the bread in the juice of tomatoes. Our group discussed this recipe and decided we needed to make panzanella to our taste and availability, which is how panzanella (a bread salad) was created to begin with.
Because the tomatoes were so sweet and delicious, I didn’t want anything else to overshadow their flavor. I cubed and toasted left over pugliese Italian bread. This type of bread makes a very hearty crouton, with no crumbs, perfect for panzanella.
I just received a beautiful care package from Mezzetta Foods. I used some chopped sweet cherry peppers and a few kalamata olives, but both sparingly…just enough to spice it up, but not take away from those gorgeous heirlooms.
Then I turned it into breakfast (or brunch) by adding a poached egg. But, this would be appropriate any time of day.
Love Note for the Farmers: Look for the Franklin Farmer’s Market to be featured on Summer Tomato this coming week. It is a honor and pleasure to guest post for Darya who is just as passionate about supporting her farmer’s market as I am. This year, the flood and then the heat in Tennessee has brought extra challenges to our local growers.
It may be hot to walk around an outdoor market this time of year, but think about what these vendors go through for very modest return to bring us the freshest and healthiest food. It’s truly worth the trip on many levels.
Tell me, what’s your favorite purchase at the farmer’s market?
- 1½ cup cubed bread, toasted in oven
- 11/2 cup coarsely chopped heirloom tomatoes
- A few sweet cherry peppers
- A few kalamata olives (or oil cured olives)
- 1 teaspoon capers
- extra virgin olive oil (high quality)
- handful basil leaves
- Sea salt, black pepper
- 2 eggs, poached
- Toast cubes of bread.
- Chop tomatoes into large bite size chunks. In a small bowl, olive oil, red wine vinegar, capers, salt, pepper. Toss tomatoes in dressing. There should be ample enough dressing to absorb the bread. I like the bread cubes to stay a little harder (not mushy) so I do it this way. You could also soak the bread cubes in the dressing first and then add in tomatoes.
- Add in a few chopped cherry peppers, olives and basil. Season to taste.
- Top with poached egg, more capers and a drizzle of olive oil.