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Amy Goldman, Champion of the Real Tomato

Rural Intelligence Road Trips “We’re lucky to be living in such interesting tomato times,” Rhinebeck resident Amy Goldman writes in her latest book, The Heirloom Tomato From Garden To Table (Bloomsbury USA, $35).  Twenty years ago cheap, perfectly shaped, unblemished, flavorless, dull red orbs were considered almost alright. Today, thanks to Goldman (photographed in her garden by Sandy Fellman) and other activist growers, the heirloom tomatoes of the far more distant past have a rosy future. 

August is always a busy month for tomato growers, but this has been an especially hectic week outside the garden for
Rural Intelligence Road TripsGoldman, whose previous books include The Compleat Squash and Melons for the Passionate Grower.  Tuesday was the official publication date of her tomato book, the subtitle of which is Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit,  a claim verified by the 200 stunning photographs of heirloom tomatoes by the renowned still life photographer Victor Schrager. (See one of the recipes below.)  Then that same evening, there was a gala opening at the New York Botanical Garden of an exhibition of Schrager’s photographs of tomatoes, all from Goldman’s extraordinary garden.  Coming up this Saturday, the garden, which is actually a 200-acre farm where she grows, among many other things, a staggering 500 varieties of tomatoes, will be the sole area destination on the Open Days Conservancy Tour.  And Saturday evening, she’ll be on hand at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck to sign copies of her book.  Phew!

But through all the hubbub, one must assume, she is thinking of her ripening crop, much of which will be harvested for its seed. Most of the remainder will get preserved or used for taste tests.  Goldman, a passionate seed saver and sharer, is board chair of Seed Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based non-profit that she calls “the gardening underground.” Through its efforts, and those of organizations such as The New York Botanical Garden, on whose board Goldman also sits, we now can look forward to a season of vibrant heirlooms, each with its own distinctive character. 

In her book, Goldman explains how, unlike hybrids, heirloom tomatoes can reproduce themselves true-to-type from seed, retaining their appearance, flavor, hardiness, and genetic integrity generation after generation. She offers specific advice for growing such tomatoes in this region, under the conditions we all more-or-less share.  And then there are the recipes, developed with Eve Felder, associate dean for culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America; for example:

(Serves 10)

For the toasted crumbs:
1 loaf rustic bread
1/2 cup pure olive oil
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

For the cherry tomato salad:
1 pint Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 pints cherry and currant tomatoes, mixed

For the pasta:
1 gallon water
1/4 cup salt
2 pounds spaghetti
3 green basil sprigs
3 purple basil sprigs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

To make the toasted bread crumbs: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the crust from the loaf of bread and cut the bread into large dice. Pulse in a food processor until the pieces are small. In a large bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the crumbs evenly on rimmed baking sheets and bake, turning frequently with a spatula, until browned. Cool and reserve.

To make the cherry tomato salad: Slice the tomatoes in half. Combine in a medium bowl with the sherry-shallot vinaigrette and let rest for 1 full hour before completing assembly and serving the dish.

To prepare the pasta: Bring the water to a boil and add the 1/4 cup salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, or to taste. Drain.

Lay the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, and slice them into thin strips.

In a large bowl, toss the warm pasta with the cherry tomato salad. Plate the pasta and top with the Parmesan, basil and toasted bread crumbs. Serve immediately, while the bread crumbs are crunchy.

(Makes 1 pint)

2 shallots, cut into fine dice
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
1 cup pure olive oil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, soak the shallots in a mix of all the vinegars and salt for 30 minutes.*

Whisk in the olive oils. Taste and adjust with additional salt, vinegar or oil as needed. Store in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator, bringing it back to room temperature before using. The vinaigrette will keep for 4 or 5 days.

*Marinating the shallots in vinegar and salt for a half hour pickles them so they can bring out the best in sweeter, lower-acid tomatoes.
Goldman Garden Tour
164 Mountain View Road, Rhinebeck
Saturday, August 16, 10 - 2
Admission: $5 (to benefit the Garden Conservancy)

Book signing:
Oblong Books and Music

Montgomery Row, Route 9, Rhinebeck; 845.876.0500
Saturday, August 16, 6 - 7

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 08/14/08 at 02:30 AM • Permalink