Where to begin? The West End Farmers Market Tomato Festival takes place from 9:00-2:00 tomorrow, so that should be reason enough to get out of bed before noon. This week’s feature tomato of the week is the ….
A Russian heirloom. This favourite heirloom tomato was named after the operatic artist who won acclaim as an advocate of equal rights for people of colour. His artistry was admired world-wide, especially in the Soviet Union. This “black” beefsteak tomato is slightly flattened, round, and grows to 4-inches. It’s deep, rich colours set it apart from others…a dusky, dark-red tomato with dark-green shoulders, and red flesh in it’s centre. A very flavourful fruit, with luscious, earthy flavours and a good sweet/acid balance.
We are now at the height of the local farmers market season. In addition to last week’s offerings, you will be able to choose from between 4-5 varieties of melons, apples (the Mac’s just arrived last week!), squash, and an ever-increasing variety of both sweet and hot peppers. Be sure check out the most delicious selection of plums that can be found in the Lower Mainland. Varieties include Sugar, Lionheart, Amber, and, my personal favourite, Santa Rosa. Seriously, if you have given up on finding a tasty plum, give these little guys a chance to change your mind.
A Spanish delicacy. As far as I know, Klippers Organic Acres is the only farm that grows this variety in Canada.
Here is an easy way to prepare them:
- Clean the peppers and dry them completely. Do not remove the stalks.
- Pan fry them in some quality olive until they blister.
- Drain the excess oil by placing them on some paper towels.
- Season with some good quality salt and enjoy.
Most of the peppers will have a sweet, fresh pepper taste – but one out of every ten will be scorching hot. It is for this reason that padrones are known as Russian Roulette peppers. I believe that this is a game worth playing, but you should plan accordingly. I suggest pairing them with your favourite locally crafted brew in the event that things get out of hand.
Padrón peppers are available at the Vancouver Farmers Markets through to the end of September.
These organic cherry tomatoes are bursting with flavour. I recommend using them to accentuate a dish of pasta al olio. Often regarded as a good test of cooking ability by Italians of discriminating taste, pasta al olio is both delicious and deceivingly simple to prepare. The key is to not over complicate things. You just want to use a few quality ingredients and allow them to shine through. In this case, I think that the addition of the cherry tomatoes works well.
When you start cooking your pasta (a quality bronze dyed fettuccine is recommended), add the halved cherry tomatoes, some thinly sliced garlic, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and a generous amount of olive oil to a second pan. The tomatoes will start to break down while your pasta boils. Be careful to cook at a low temperature, ensuring that the slices of garlic do not brown. When your pasta is al dente, the tomatoes will be ready. Toss to combine and, if needed, add some of the reserved pasta water to bring it all together. Finish with some torn basil leaves, a little freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and a few cracks of pepper if you like. Simple and very, very good.
There will be a greater selection of heirloom, field-ripened tomatoes at the market this week; they may still even be around if you wake up at 11. A variety of peppers including Hungarian hot bananas and a Spanish delicacy called padrones will also be available. Apricots, an early apple variety or two, and maybe even some peaches will make an appearance. Superstar and Walla Walla onions, both fresh and cured garlic, several varieties of basil, zucchini, cucumbers, and a selection of beans should also be among the offerings from the friendly folks at Klippers Organic Acres.