New Uses for Heirloom Tomatoes!!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

If your heirloom tomato garden is anything like mine, it's probably getting to the point where it's starting to produce far more than you need. This is when experiened growers unlike myself turn to various canning and sauce efforts in an attempt to save this wonderful harvest for winter uses such as stews, chili, soups, etc.

In short, there are a million things you can do with your heirloom tomato crop.

Check that! Make that one million and ONE. And this use has found a HOME, in the HOME of Venus and Bill Bird. I first spotted this recipe on the Yahoo Group TomatoMania (thanks Mary-Anne). And, it immediately caught my interest. It looked good. It sounded good. But I would have to wait six months before I could try it.

The photo that you see to your immediate left? That's the result of our heirloom tomato growing efforts and a wonderful concoction called Manny Hinojosa's Heirloom Tomato Martini. Yes, Virginia. Heirloom tomatoes aren't just for salads anymore. And this is one of the best uses I've found for heirloom tomatoes yet.

Keep in mind, I'm not a big, big fan of martinis. Should one appear before me, I'll drink it of course. But it's not the standard fare that Bill or Venus Bird will order at your average dive bar. Most of the time, we're content with less-lavish fare such as a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. On those "extra-special" occassions, we might even dabble in a shot of fine whiskey. But, those occassions are rare.

I think the last time I had a martini was five, maybe six years ago. Based upon this recipe, I'm probably going to be mixing a few more. This is one lucious, incredible
drink. And, interestly enough, it changes colors depending on which heirloom tomato you use for each drink. For example, the drink to the right? It's the exact same yellow-looking concoction you saw above, with one little difference. The drink above was used with Lemon Boy heirloom tomatoes. The drink to your right contains about 10-12 crushed Sungold Sweet cherry tomatoes. And this was, by far, the best one of the bunch.

A bit of a warning here if you're going to try this recipe (which I highly encourage by the way). Even without the use of an heirloom tomato, this martini is slightly sour and very acidic. It's much like a Lemon Drop, due to the use of an entire lemon. If you use an heirloom tomato that is also high in acid content (we used a Green Zebra in one creation last night), you're going to get a martini that is extremely acidic. And, unless you have a cast-iron stomach, it can cause a bit of indigestion.

But not enough to put the kabosh on plans to make a third drink! The third experiment used an heirloom tomato that became an absolute favorite in our garden last year. As you can tell by the photo -- there is a bit of a red tinge to this drink. And, if you're thinking that we used red tomatoes, BINGO!! This drink is the result of two and a half small, crushed Costaluto Genovese tomatoes.

Second warning: This drink works best with vine-ripened tomatoes that you pull out of your own backyard garden, or you're fortunate enough to obtain from a neighbor's garden. Heirloom tomatoes purchased at conventional supermarkets are NOT acceptable substitutes. Heirloom tomatoes purchased at Farmer's Markets are a tad better. But there's nothing better than an heirloom tomato straight from the backyard.

Finally, although the recipe for this drink calls for "half of a small heirloom tomato," that is really hard to quantify. There is no standard size for "small heirloom tomatoes." That's the magic invovling heirlooms. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are as big as three pounds! Some are pea sized. This recipe works best with sweeter heirloom tomatoes. And, for the drink that utilized Sungold Sweet Cherry tomatoes, I used about ten of them, and also popped in a few West Sac Crack cherry tomatoes just to see "what happened."

The taste was simply out of this world good. Once you try this drink, I promise you, you will be hooked for good.

And now -- without fail -- the recipe for Manny Hinojosa's Heirloom Tomato Martini!

2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
3/4 ounce tripl sec
1 whole lemon
1/2 small heirloom tomato
4 leaves fresh basil (if you can get this out of the garden like we did -- wonderful!)

1. Muddle tomato with fresh basil in a shaker. Muddle means "grind it up." And I would suggest that you tear the basil leaves into two or three pieces and really grind all the juice possible out of that tomato at the bottom of the glass.
2. Add ice, fresh lemon juice, gin and triple sec.
3. Shake 10 times (making sure to dislodge that crushed tomato from the bottom of the mixing glass), strain and pour into martini glass.

This is an easy drink to make once you get the hang of it. Venus just loves it. And, I must admit, that wonderful wife has great taste.

I love it too.


Beth said...

Bill! Thanks for suggesting this, I am so glad you left me a note about these!

I am going to try these out for sure... later. You see, I was a big procrastinator this year, and started my tomatos WAY late. Almost embarrassingly late :)

My friends gardens are all out of control lush and my tiny tomato plants look like they usually do in early May...

So, I am saving this one for next month! YUM,

Bill Bird said...

This is one GREAT drink. And yeah, it's about time to make another round or four.