Jerry Traunfeld: An Herbal Kitchen
James Beard Award-winning chef and cookbook author Jerry Traunfeld's fascination with both gardening and cooking developed at an early age. "Ever since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated with gardens and growing things—houseplants and outdoor plants," Traunfeld recalls. "I started cooking when I was a teenager, and that's how the connection started."
At his Seattle restaurant, Poppy, Traunfeld tends a small but intensively planted garden. The waist-high raised beds house herbs, salad greens, edible flowers, and a few of Traunfeld's mostloved tomato varieties. To keep his tomatoes happy in Seattle's notoriously damp, chilly climate, he plants them in the sunniest, warmest spot in the garden and meticulously removes any foliage that looks diseased. "One cherry tomato variety that always stands out and never disappoints is 'Sungold'," says Traunfeld. "It consistently produces and it is so delicious." Other favorite varieties include 'Persimmon' (a yellow heirloom grown by Thomas Jefferson), 'Brandywine', and 'Champion'.
For a simple summertime meal, Traunfeld heats halved cherry tomatoes
mixed with a clove of minced garlic and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until just warm, and then adds basil, sweet marjoram, tarragon, or thyme to taste. "It's in between a sauce and a salad," says Traunfeld, who recommends serving the tomatoes over grilled fish or tossing with pasta.
Cherry Tomato, Melon, and Mint Salad
4 cups melon balls, scooped from a ripe, sweet watermelon at room temperature
3 cups ripe 'Sungold' cherry tomato halves, at room temperature
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh spearmint
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Toss all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Makes 8 servings
Adapted from The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor, by Jerry Traunfeld