31 August 2018

Summer Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomatoes | SCD, Paleo, Vegan


One of the greatest treasures that Ohio has to offer are their fresh, homegrown summer tomatoes. Did you know that Ohio is the third-largest producer of tomatoes in the United States, harvesting over 6,000 acres of tomatoes annually? And that Ohio designated tomatoes as the official state fruit of Ohio in 2009 and tomato juice has been the official state beverage of Ohio since 1965?

In our family, tomatoes take on more meaning because one of our restaurants most famous dishes is the classic "Bender's Tomato," which consists of hand-selected tomatoes topped with dry blue cheese, basil, parsley, red onion and a homemade Italian dressing. Over the years of owning and operating the restaurant, my father-in-law has become a tomato connoisseur and has traveled all over Ohio in search of the perfect tomato.

With the current trends of farmer's markets, farm-to-table restaurants and eat local campaigns, almost everyone has heard the term heirloom tomatoes.
But what exactly makes a tomato an heirloom?

Characteristics of an Heirloom Tomato:
Heirlooms are open pollinated and must be able to reproduce from seed, which means they are pollinated by insects, bird and animals or the wind. Not by human intervention. On the other hand, hybrid tomatoes are pollinated with human intervention and are created for consistency, commercial characteristics and transport for distribution. Therefore, these hybrids are genetically modified.

The seeds of an heirloom tomato have been passed down from generation to generation in a particular region and are rich in history. Every heirloom variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an evolved resistance to pests and diseases and an adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates, making their characteristics dependent on the region of origin.

Heirlooms often vary in color, shape, texture and size and, depending on the species, flavors can be full, rich, meaty and sweet.

Be aware of what you are buying, especially since heirlooms come with a higher price tag. Large farms often market their tomatoes and piggy-back off the heirloom hype and sell an inferior product that most likely isn't even a traditional heirloom. Just because a tomato is labeled "heirloom" doesn't automatically mean that the tomatoes were grown locally, organically, or in any way that you might associate with the traditional traits of an heirloom. Know your farmers and try to stay local!

Even better, grow your own!

SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Vegan
yield: 8 servings

2.5 pounds heirloom tomatoes, core removed and cut into large pieces
½ small white onion, cut into pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into pieces
½ yellow pepper, cut
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small jalapeño, sliced (optional)
3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for garnish
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
fresh basil, chopped

Garnish Ingredients:
cracked black pepper
chopped peppers
diced cherry tomatoes
drizzle of olive oil
Liberated Specialty Foods pizza crust, toasted in the oven and broken into wedges

1. Add tomatoes, onion, cucumber, pepper, garlic and spices to a large bowl and toss with vinegar and olive oil. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth; about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve into a large bowl or pitcher and chill until cool, about 1 hour.
4. Divide gazpacho among bowls. Top with garnishes of choice. Some options include: chopped basil, cracked black pepper, chopped peppers, diced cherry tomatoes, chopped radishes, a drizzle of olive oil. Mix and match to your palates desire!

Tomato Tip: never refrigerate tomatoes!


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