Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Basil Lemon Ricotta

Summer means sweet, ripe tomatoes in abundance and I just love when they start going off like wildfire in the garden and at farmers markets. This is usually the signal for me to start making big batches of  tomato sauce, freezing in abundance and roasting and snacking endlessly on cherry and grape tomatoes. And, of course, there’s one of my favorite tomato stand outs – the tomato sandwich. Bright, sweet, acidic, of the earth – it’s truly a summer delight – and here’s my take on it.

 

Heirloom Tomatoes Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Basil Lemon Ricotta

 

Heirloom Tomato Sandwich with Basil Lemon Ricotta

Yield: 4 servings

 

For Basil Lemon Ricotta

1 cup whole milk ricotta, drained (I use Angelo and Franco brand ricotta)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest from one lemon

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil

2 small garlic cloves, minced

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

For Sandwich

1 small ciabatta loaf or sourdough boule, cut in half widthwise and lengthwise, seasoned and toasted in the oven with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and rubbed with a peeled garlic clove

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, different colors if possible, cut into ¼- and ½ -inch slices

16 medium basil leaves, hand torn

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

 

Season tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Spread basil lemon ricotta over toasted ciabatta and arrange 1 layer of heirloom tomatoes on top.

Put some of the hand torn basil on top of the first layer of tomatoes and then add another layer of tomatoes.

Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on top.

Roll up your sleeves and dive in.

 

 

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Creatures of Habit

We are all creatures of habit – some good, some bad. It is my hope that over the years we will all replace one bad habit for a good one. What’s my favorite habit? Well, read on my friends.

For the last (give or take) 15 years, I have been in the habit of going to the farmers market every Sunday, the Hollywood Farmers Market, that is. In fact, I think of the farmers market as my second home because I used to work at the one in Hollywood for over 10 years selling fruit for one of the farmers… my buddy Ken Lee.

Not only is it filled with every possible fruit and vegetable that you could possibly want, but so many people, from so many different walks of life come to shop every week – from the city’s greatest chefs, to tourists, to famous actors, to everyday shoppers. I love it!

This Sunday, my sous-chef and I were making our plans for what to buy, when we remembered that the L.A. Marathon was taking place. (Gasp!) Translation: roads closed everywhere.  A-ha! (pointing skyward) What a great opportunity to walk. I love L.A. without any cars. Ahhhhh.

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And with this fancy little rolly cart, care of my friends at Lucini Italia Olive Oil, we were able to cruise to the market in style!

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What have we here? Oranges, Fresh Herbs, Snap Peas, Flowers, Tomatoes, Lettuces, Cabbage, Greens….. Everything is so fresh and delicious. Starting with amazing produce makes my job as chef so easy! I love supporting my local farmer friends. Also, (come closer) …near the end of the day you can find a few really great deals!

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ImageImageImageImageImageOh, and how cool is this – remember the little jaunt to Houweling’s greenhouse that my sous and I took last week? Well, look what we found. Turns out the cucumbers and tomatoes we have been buying all these years are from Houwelings! No wonder we like them so much.

ImageAll said and done, we were all filled up with fresh goodness and ready to go.

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But, wait! What about our weekly loaf of fresh sourdough bread?! Our favorite bakery, the Village Bakery, couldn’t make it to Farmers Market because of the L.A. marathon. No sourdough bread? Not on my watch! So, we walked (briskly) back to my apartment, dropped off the fresh produce, grabbed some fleur de sel, a few thin slices of butter – and in the car we go! (cue very cool driving music)

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Needless to say, we arrived just minutes before they closed. Praise Latte! So there we sat, my sous and I, in the front seat of the sunny car, tearing that delicious loaf into pieces – slathering them with butter and dusting them with fleur de sel. With free street parking to boot!

Now this is a habit I can get used to.

Monsanto Hide And Seek?

Today, sweaty from the gym, I wasn’t quite in the mood to cook just yet, so after ordering a simple meal at my local Thai restaurant with my sous-chef, we began to wonder about where all of the vegetables came from. Not just what supplier or farmer, but where the seeds originate: from the rice to the veggies to the soy sauce.

Before we even finished our meal, we began doing some research on the topic, which included internet research as well as asking my master gardener and farmer friends, and (although we are still researching), our findings are quite unsettling.

Turns out, a company Seminis, (established in 1994 – a conglomeration of a number of Dutch seed companies) sells over 3,500 seed varietals and controls about 40% of the US vegetable market and 20% of the world market. In the US, they supply 55% of the lettuce, 75% of the tomatoes, and 85% of the peppers supplied in supermarkets. Basically, if you have ever eaten a salad, you are eating the produce from Seminis seeds.

The unsettling part? Monsanto bought this company for 1.4 billion dollars (cash!) in 2005. Now that’s a lot of Lattes…

I am a big supporter of small farms, family farms, organics, non-GMO’s. It has been easy for me to stay away from the Monsanto GMO crops like corn and wheat since I buy organic flours and corn and stay away from processed food which contains things like GMO canola oil and high fructose corn syrup. However, this new discovery made me realize that by the mere fact that Monsanto controls so many seeds (albeit non-GMO), that through the simple act of enjoying a meal (in fact most meals) – I have probably still been supporting Monsanto!

Are there ways to farm conventionally without using these seeds that have been bred and grafted for conventional farming? Do farmers really have options? Do consumers who garden have options? And, how will consumers ever really know what they are eating or not if GMO labeling is not mandated and varietals are not labelled?

For a list of Monsanto/Seminis varietals, you can look at their website. As I teach people, farmers markets are so great because you can ask your farmers all about their produce. I know I’ll be asking my farmer friends about varietals this Sunday when I visit the Hollywood Farmers Market.

I’m on the search to find out. With Monsanto buying up world seed companies… is Monsanto really avoidable?