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Garden to table: Tiny tomatoes update a classic summer combo

Blessed with a bountiful tomato crop? Our resident permaculture designer details how to put them to good use in her latest column

This past week, our youngest daughter visited for a few days to celebrate her birthday, and also to hang about in the gardens and kitchen, and bond over cooking.

I teach her what I know, and she teaches me what she knows. Together, we travel the timeless culinary continuum, refining old ideas based on current trends, a dry pantry loaded with ethnic ingredients, and new information about utilizing food as medicine.

Happily this week, our patio gardens were bursting with dozens of varieties of exotic heirloom tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, from the tiniest pink, apricot, and red currant tomatoes, to voluptuous terracotta two-pounders.

Tiny currant tomatoes in particular are so sweet and colourful they inspired a delicious and nutritious, umami-charged twist on a traditional happy hour pairing of Caesars and bruschetta.

I played Sous Chef and photographer, while our daughter took my place behind the cutting board.

On the happy hour menu: Pastel currant and cherry tomato compote on anchovy oil-grilled pressed focaccia, with holy basil chiffonade.

It was accompanied by smoked garlic-infused gin not-so-bloody Marys with harissa and Aleppo pepper, and rimmed with roasted anchovy salt and rosemary. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe the pairing — even as mocktails, omitting the gin.

To serve four generously (refilling glasses), start with 1500ml (six cups) of mixed colour cherry and/or currant tomatoes.

If using the gin, set 120ml aside with 5ml of dried smoked or plain dried garlic stirred in, to infuse for about 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

We used Petit Moineau, Ted’s Pink, and Hawaiian currant tomatoes, plus Metchosin Pink, Yellow Peach, White, Strawberry, Orange Strawberry, Sweet Solano, Sungold, Indigo Rose, and Sweet Red cherry tomatoes.

For the anchovy salt, mix 2.5ml anchovy extract or oil (from a tin of anchovies) with 60gr sea salt, and spread on a cookie sheet to dry in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.

For the beverage, roast four cups of tomatoes on a parchment covered sheet pan for about 30 minutes, or until they collapse. Liquify them in a blender along with 250ml water, 15ml lime juice, 5ml rose harissa, 5ml Aleppo pepper and 5ml white balsamic.

Strain and add garlic gin (if using) plus four dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Chill.

For the bruschetta, slice focaccia horizontally and then into 16 three-bite rectangles. Working in batches, saute the pieces in 5ml anchovy oil (per batch) in a heavy skillet, flipping and then compressing with a lid.

Set aside on a serving platter.

Chop the remaining tomatoes into smallish pieces with a sharp knife (so as not to squish), gently fold in 5ml garlic oil, pinch of sea salt, and 15ml or so of fine chiffonade of holy (or regular) basil. Set aside.

Crush 15ml anchovy salt in a mortar and pestle. Stir in 5ml finely chopped rosemary and pour onto a small plate. Rub the rim of four small glasses with lime juice and then twist in the herbed salt. Fill glasses with ice cubes, pour over chilled tomato juice, and garnish with a whole small tomato or basil leaves.

Mound diced tomato mixture onto the focaccia pieces and garnish with basil blossoms or fine citrus zest, plus a few grinds of black pepper. Serve immediately while toasts remain crisp.

Multi-coloured tomatoes and holy basil burst with beneficial phytonutrients.

Aleppo and harissa pepper contain formidable bioactives, and anchovy oil is high in omega-3s. Alcohol, admittedly, isn’t good for us, but if we are to imbibe, at least we can offset with anti-microbial, antioxidant garlic.

Beverage can be made ahead and refrigerated for a few days.

Option: top bruschetta with fried anchovies or sardines.

Laura Marie Neubert is a West Vancouver-based urban permaculture designer. Follow her on Instagram @upfrontandbeautiful, learn more about permaculture by visiting her Upfront & Beautiful website or email your questions to her here.

For a taste of permaculture, click on the YouTube link below:

(Video -  Courtesy of West Vancouver Memorial Library)

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