Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A love affair with tomatoes - part deux

I am currently writing allotment inspired recipes for Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine in Chicago - a "European-inspired neighborhood cheese, specialty food and wine shop offering the highest quality, cut-to-order domestic and international specialty cheeses, freshly baked breads, perfectly chosen accompaniments and small production wines, along with hand-crafted, cheese loving beers"

September issue 1

We are excited to introduce a series of recipes from our friend and fellow cheese-lover Jane McKay at the Merchant Park Community Garden. Each month, we'll feature a delicious recipe that marries our artisan cheeses and the seasonal, local produce from our own backyard in Chicago. Keep up to date with happenings at the Garden on their facebook page and keep checking in here for more great recipes and pairings.

Merchant Park Community Garden (MPCG) strives to provide an opportunity for neighbors and their children to work, play, learn and grow together. MPCG is not only for the benefit of our members, but also aims to benefit the community at large through outreach efforts such as donations to local food pantries. In short, MPCG is an oasis in the 30th ward - a backyard for us all.

Kids Love Tomato  Tarts With Cheese

The garden at this time of year has been groaning with fruit, providing us with a bountiful supply of tomatoes. Our hot Chicago summer, peppered with big rain showers, has allowed the plants to fruit abundantly.

With heirlooms such as Reis brought from Wisconsin, to Black Prince, green and red Tigrella and of course Cherries, one way or another, tomatoes make their way into our weekly menu and when the season is over then in come the tinned or store bought alternatives. Imagine a year round diet without tomatoes? This year I will say "imagine a year without homegrown tomatoes".

The tomatoes coming from our vines are juicy, misshaped and tasty mouthwatering fruits. Aside from eating them straight from the vine, there are many ways to prepare tomatoes; from a simple salad of sliced fruit drizzled with olive oil and splashed with balsamic vinegar, (I recommend you use the best oil and vinegar that you can get. Try Frescobaldi Laudemio oil and La Vecchia balsamic, aged 10 years); to a fresh tomato sauce with such depth of flavor that all it requires is a bowl of spaghetti as a vehicle for eating.

Tomato Tart With  Prairie Fruits Farm Fresh Chevre And Mozzarella

To pay homage to our ongoing first harvest, a Tarte fine aux tomates (Tomato Tart) is offered up. The tomatoes are sat on top of the tart which allows them to partially dry out during cooking, concentrating their already sweet and sharp flavors. Underneath, the tomatoes are cushioned by a delicious creamy, salty and fragrant mixture of grated Parmesan and soft goat cheese flecked with fresh basil. A fresh Aioli is the perfect addition. Eat the tart while it's still warm with a glass of crisp Rose wine such as Prestige Chateau Peuch Haut.

Tarte fine aux tomates

serves 4

Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F.

Roll the pastry to 12" and place on a baking sheet.

In a bowl grate the parmesan, tear in the basil, mix in the goat cheese and season

Spread the mixture onto the inner 8" circle of the pastry

Slice the tomatoes and lay them in ever decreasing circles from the outside edge of the pastry inwards, and upwards over the cheese mixture, using the top and bottom slices to prop up each circle as you move towards the the center.

Bake at 390 degrees F for 25 minutes, and then for a further 45 minutes at 340 degrees F.


serves 4

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 12 ounces/350ml olive oil (or half the amount of olive to half vegetable oil)
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic

Put the egg yolks into a basin, add the water and mustard

Start whisking a drizzle of olive oil until incorporated ensuring the mixture doesn't split. Add the oil in small amounts whisking continuously until the mixture becomes firm.

Mix in the crushed garlic and season to taste

Alternatively the aioli can be made in a small food processor by adding the oil slowly while blending

Jane McKay is a member of the Merchant Park Community Garden - "a backyard for us all"

Everything we grow is within 8' x 8' raised beds, constructed by the members in May 2011. Each raised bed has a dedicated owner for a year and all of our produce is organically grown.

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