Tomato Trifecta

Three chefs share recipes for their top tomato picks.

By Dan Sullivan

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Preparing green tomatoesAlex Lee: Global Flavors, Local Food
"I've grown a garden since I was 12," says Alex Lee, a chef who has worked alongside the likes of Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse. "I love to see seeds germinating under grow lights. In my profession, I get to travel all around the world. The first place I visit in whatever country I go to is the local farmers' market."
 
Creativity in the kitchen is tied to the availability of fresh ingredients, says Lee, and summer allows creativity to truly shine. "Through my cooking, I really enjoy the rhythms of the seasons, and one of my favorite times is tomato season," says Lee, who is the executive chef at Glen Oaks Country Club in Old Westbury, New York. Lee's passion is to bring rich peasant tastes and traditions, what he calls the "soul" of food, to fine dining.
 
This globe-trotting chef has a world of favorite tomato varieties, and it includes 'Cherokee Purple' (United States), 'Momotaro'( Japan), 'Zapotec' (Mexico), 'Coeur de Boeuf' (France), and 'Canestrino' (Italy). "'Canestrino' tomatoes have a very high sugar content," explains Lee. "They are meaty, with few seeds and an almost fruity flavor."
 
Lee says successfully growing tomatoes begins with a "classic compost pile" made with the right mix of dry "brown" matter—such as dead leaves and straw—and wet "green" matter, including vegetable scraps from the kitchen. "I put everything in: eggshells, mushroom stems, coffee grounds." Pest problems such as tomato hornworms are dealt with by hand-picking the insects and tossing them in the waste bin. Lee also recommends soaking the soil at the base of the plants with diluted fish emulsion just as they begin to flower. "And I always work in lots of organic matter before the plants go into the ground," he says.
 
Yummy tomato recipe: Alex Lee's Green Tomato GazpachoAlex Lee's Green Tomato Gazpacho
This chilled soup is made with tomatoes such as 'Green Zebra', 'Evergreen', 'Green Grape', and 'German Green', all of which remain green when ripe.
 
  • 1 1/2 cups pulp from ripe green tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons avocado, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced serrano chile pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Small cherry tomatoes or tiny currant tomatoes, halved, and tiny purple basil leaves (optional garnish)
 
Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the green tomato pulp, celery, cucumber, avocado, onion, olive oil, vinegar, cilantro, and chile pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Place the bowl filled with gazpacho into the ice-water bath, making sure not to submerge it. Chill until cold. Garnish with purple basil leaves and red and orange cherry tomato halves for a vibrant and colorful contrast.
 
Makes 2 servings
 
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