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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Summer!

Green Tomato Frittata

I can't believe that it's already September! Fall is on its way and I'm so excited for my first "real" Autumn. However, Summer is not gone yet. We are still awash in delicious summer produce here. Tonight I used one of summer's stars to make two dishes: Green Tomato Frittata and Heirloom Tomato Salad. So good and so healthy!

One thing I love about the farmers' market is the diversity of types of food there. For example, last week I bought 2 lbs of green tomatoes and 1 lb of heirloom tomatoes (several different varieties). Heirloom varieties are seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation. They are open pollinators. Meaning they reproduce the old-fashioned way using the birds and the bees as opposed to being genetically modified in a lab. They each have a unique flavor and very fun names like Banana Legs, Snow White and Tiny Tim.

Heirloom tomatoes

I have never seen green tomatoes at the grocery store. And usually they only have a few varieties of tomatoes. Why is that a problem?

Well, overall we're losing diversity and taste in our food. I read about this in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Since it took a book to lay out that argument, I know that I won't be able to do it justice here very well in a few paragraphs. But here's the gist:

"Most standard vegetable varieties sold in stores have been bred for uniform appearance, mechanized harvest, convenience of packing, and tolerance for hard travel. None of these can be mistaken, in practice, for actual flavor." Animal, Vegeble, Miracle, pg 48.

And anyone who has had a tomato right out of the garden will tell you that store-bought pales in comparison!

Besides losing flavor, we're also losing genetic diversity. Reducing the genepool of various vegetables to meet the requirements of shipping and supermarket shelflife, as described in the quote above, make crops more vulnerable to disease.

"Under highly varied environmental conditions, the resilience of open-pollinated land races (heirloom varieites) can be compared approximately with the robust health of a mixed-breed dog versus the finicky condition of a pooch with a highly inbred prdigree (genetically modified crops). The mongrel may not perform as predictably under perfectly controlled condtions, but it has the combined smarts and longevity of all the sires that ever jumped over the fence. Some of its many different genes are likely to come in handy, in a pinch. The loss of that mongrel vigor puts food systems at risk. " Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, pg 54.

The rise of commercial farming has already caused many heirloom varieties of crops to go extinct. And its not just tomatoes. In the book she also mentions varieties of turkeys and cows being lost. And I'm sure there are others, both plants and animals.

There is a movement to preserve diverse varieites of plants and animals called Slow Food International. The goal of that organization is "to protect the pleasures of the table from the homogenization of modern fast food and life." I have looked up Slow Food's website but I don't know much about it. But I think that just by going to the farmers' market I'm contributing in my own small way against the "homogenization of modern fast food and life."

If you want to know more, I would highly suggest Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I've also heard that The Omnivore's Delimma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan are very good but I have not read either.

Here are my tomato recipes, they were so delicious:

Heirloom Tomato Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad

1 lb mix of heirloom variety tomatoes, chopped

1 tbs sliced basil

slash balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Feta cheese

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

Green Tomato Frittata
- from the NY Times recipes for health section, with some changes that I made.

1 pound green tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cornmeal for dredging

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced

1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil

1 tablespoon snipped chives

8 large eggs

2 tablespoons low-fat milk

1 long green chile

1 jalepeno

1/4 c Gruyere Cheese (or whatever kind of cheese you like, or no cheese at all)

1. Core the tomatoes and slice half of them about 1/3 inch thick. Set aside. Peel the remaining tomatoes by dropping them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, then transferring to a bowl of ice water. Cut in half, squeeze or scoop out the seeds, and chop fine.

2. Season the sliced tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper, and dredge lightly in the cornmeal. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy, nonstick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, and fry the sliced tomatoes for two to three minutes on each side, just until lightly colored. Remove from the heat and set aside. If there is cornmeal in the pan, clean and dry the pan.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan over medium heat, and add the chopped onion, chile pepper and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, until tender, three to five minutes, and add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Stir together until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir in the chopped tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have softened and are beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the basil and chives.

4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk together in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt). When the chopped tomatoes have cooked down, turn the heat up to medium-high and pour in the eggs. Swirl the pan to distribute the eggs and filling evenly over the surface. Shake the pan gently, tilting it slightly with one hand while lifting up the edges of the frittata with the spatula in your other hand, letting the eggs run underneath during the first few minutes of cooking. Distribute the fried sliced green tomatoes over the surface of the frittata. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook 10 minutes, shaking the pan gently every once in a while. From time to time, remove the lid and loosen the bottom with a spatula. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.

5. Finish the frittata under the broiler for one to three minutes, watching very carefully to make sure the top doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat, shake the pan to make sure the frittata isn’t sticking (it will slide around a bit in the nonstick pan) and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes, up to 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a wooden or plastic spatula. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese on top. Carefully slide from the pan onto a large round platter. Cut in wedges and serve, or serve at room temperature.

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