On Your Mark, Get Set: Tomatomania
By Gillian Ferguson
When I received Marlena’s salade chevre chaud recipe my eyes scanned each ingredient and then promptly stopped at “tomatoes, heirloom please.” Living in Southern California, tomato season really gets under way in August and will permeate the markets until October and if we’re lucky, November. Brandywines and Green Zebras in November is one of the many perks of life in Los Angeles.
Another side note about tomatoes – they are the gateway drug for gardening. I have 9 tomato plants this year, 4 of which I inherited from an elementary school gardening program, 2 of which I bought from Green String Farm in Sonoma County and 3 of which I started from seed. If you haven’t grown from seed before I encourage you to try it. The word ‘maternal’ doesn’t exactly come to mind should I be asked to describe myself, but when it comes to tomatoes – they are my babies. I love them. I care for them. I shower them with compost tea. I even pick little green worms off of their leaves…with my bare hands. Needless to say with 9 tomato plants you start to have quite a lot of tomatoes.
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Since moving to California I have had 2 career trajectories. First I worked as a baker and pastry chef and now I produce a public radio program called Good Food on KCRW (Podcast it! It’s good!). Recently on Good Food one of our guests was talking about a Tomato Tarte Tatin. I adore traditional Apple Tarte Tatin and even more than eating it I love making it. A tarte tatin is a sort of upside down pie. Most commonly made with apples, the fruit is cooked in a skillet on the stove and once the fruit is cooked through and the juices caramelized you cover the fruit with pastry and stick the skillet in the oven for the pastry to bake. To “plate” the pie you simply invert the skillet on a plate and voila your pie is right-side-up!
I am one of those sick cooks where the more steps I see in a recipe the more likely I am to try it…and add a step or two. Making tarte tatin you use the stove AND the oven. You make pastry – puff pastry if you’ve got 10 hours of free time or a commercial kitchen on your hands. And the highlight of it all – when it’s done cooking you pull a skillet out of a 425 degree oven, place a plate on top and then invert a molten hot pastry onto the plate trying not to burn yourself or spill caramel all over your kitchen. I had to try it.
Stay tuned for the full recipe and a how-to guide on not splattering caramel lava all over your kitchen when making a tarte tatin. It’ll be live this Thursday…
Tomatomania to be continued!
Gillian Ferguson writes the blog I Have A Lemon Tree. She lives in Venice, California.