Friday, August 17, 2007

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Provolone

clockwise from top: Japanese Black Trifele, Moskvich, Taxi, Juliet
middle: Sun Gold, Baby Girl

Yet again, the farm staff's careful planning has paid off: the tomatoes and basil came into season together a few weeks ago, and both are growing at lightning speed. The garlic and shallots aren't too far behind, and we saw our first array of soft, barely-dried bulbs this week.

The tomato rows are things of beauty- tall, healthy and producing profusely. The farm staff planted no less than 22 tomato varieties this year! This week, we took home 5 pounds of mixed larger varieties, 3 pints of plum and 2 pints of cherry tomatoes. Within each group, you get to pick your mix, so you're able to try a bit of everything each week. I'd like to say that I have a favourite; though I gravitate towards the unusual colours (i.e. not red), and the Sun Gold cherry tomatoes are a big hit with friends, I couldn't possibly choose one over another.

I'd been seriously considering documenting each tomato variety by looks and taste, so I could later remember what we've been able to try, but it seems that the farm staff read my mind! Someone beat me to it, and the list was featured prominently in this week's newsletter. I don't think they'll mind if I reproduce it here.

We hope this handy guide will help you identify what you're eating and what you'd like to try.We buy tomato seeds from five companies: J means Johnny's Selected Seeds and F means Fedco Seeds, both in Maine, T is Totally Tomatoes, S is Seed Savers Exchange, and B is Baker Creek Seeds. Quotes are from their catalogs.

Red Varieties

New Girl J: Smaller early red tomatoes with a pointed bottom.

Moskvich J: "Fruits are early, deep red, and cold tolerant. Rich taste."

Red Sun J: "A flavorful Celebrity type with larger, prettier, deep red fruit and more crack resistance." This one does very well on our farm.

Rutgers F: Red tomato with "that great old-time flavor."

Paragon J: Large main crop variety with heavy fruit set.

Yellow Varieties

Taxi J: "Concentrated early set." This is the only early yellow tomato we grow. We only planted 2 rows. Can you tell how productive it is?

Golden Sunray S: "Golden-yellow fruits, full tomato flavor."

Other Varieties

Rose J: "Deep pink and smoother than Brandywine, Rose is every bit as large, meaty, and flavorful."

Rose de Berne F: "This French emigré is a superior medium-sized pink tomato that delivers the robust flavor of the bigger types. It has a rich sweetness the others can't match." One of our favorites.

Paul Robeson B : "This famous tomato has almost a cult following among tomato connoisseurs, who cannot get enough of this variety's amazing flavor that is so distinctive, rich and smoky.

Japanese Black Trifele B : "The flavor is absolutely sublime, having all the richness of fine chocolate." You decide.

Nebraska Wedding S: Meaty orange fruits with "well-balanced flavor."

Jubilee F: "The best medium-sized open-pollinated orange tomato, Jubilee ripens smooth-textured sweet mild meaty 8 oz. globes."

Green Zebra F: "A most unusual beast in the tomato menagerie, this zebra starts out green with dark green stripes, softening and blushing yellow when it ripens."

Tigerella T: Red, orange and yellow striped, medium-sized tomato.

Ruby Gold F: As aesthetically appealing as it is delicious, Ruby boasts prolific beautiful huge red-streaked yellow fruits with marbled interior flesh.


Sun Gold F: "To quote one of our customers, 'Without these little babies, there's no summer.' The best cherry tomato ever developed, a perfect combination of deep sweetness with a hint of acid tartness. Splits readily after rain."

Sweet Baby Girl: Standard red cherry.


Juliet J : "Delicious, rich tomato taste for salads, great salsa, and fresh pasta sauce."

Blue Beech F: "This Roma type has been acclimated in Vermont for the last 50 years so it is much more adaptable to cold climates than Roma. It usually makes a richly textured sweet sauce that's just brimming with flavor."

Orange Banana F: "The proof is in the eating and Orange Banana has several times been the clear winner of our annual autumn paste taste. Comments from this year's tasters include, 'the best flavor and sweetness yet, wow!' and 'gourmet candlelight.' No wonder Banana has become a staple of famous tomato sauces. Its amazing sprightly sweet flavor, reminiscent of Sungold but with more depth and diverse tones, makes an ambrosial sauce by itself and adds a vivid fruity complexity to any sauce with other tomato varieties."

Striped Roman F: "Near the top in our 2005 sauce test for its rich tomatoey sweetness and good texture. An underground favorite of many seed savers, Roman is just beginning to find its way into commerce."

When we'd finally got our extremely dirty selves* home and had sorted the tomatoes into three big bowls, it was hard to resist eating the lot- there are few things better than tomatoes still warm from the sun. I've planned out a few different tomato dishes for the rest of the week, so we'll have plenty of yummy tomato enjoyment until our next pickup.

As most people do during the hot New England August and September months, we rely on fast dishes that require little to no heat. This is a variation on a pasta dish that L's mom makes- it's definitely a household favourite.

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil and Provolone
serves 4 as a main course

2 pints mixed variety tomatoes, cut up any way you like
2 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 large handful basil leaves, chopped
1/4 pound provolone cheese, grated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of salt
1 pound of pasta, any type

Bring a large pot of salted (just a pinch) water to a boil, but don't add the pasta yet. Cover and keep at a simmer.

Find the serving bowl you plan to use and position it nearby.

In a medium-sized heavy pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the shallots and saute until soft, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic starts to turn a pale gold. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt (this will encourage them to release some of their liquid) and saute for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not mushy. Add the basil and saute for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and immediately pour into the serving bowl.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until
al dente. When the pasta is done, drain and toss immediately with the tomato sauce. Toss in the grated provolone and serve immediately.

* The dog was ecstatic at being so filthy- all that dirt masks his doggie fragrance, so that his enemies (the vacuum cleaner) can't detect him.

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