Monday, July 11, 2011

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!

A sure sign of summer is a menu populated with plenty of fresh tomatoes. Red, green, orange, yellow, purple, gold or even black – beautiful tomatoes are the culinary stars of the season. “We are getting all kinds of assorted heirloom tomatoes right now from Woodland Gardens,” says Ford Fry, executive chef of JCT Kitchen and soon to open No. 246 in Decatur, “There are wonderful cherry tomato varieties too like black cherry tomatoes and watermelon looking tomatoes and Black Crème tomatoes!”
Fry’s enthusiasm for all-things-tomato and his support of local farmers led to the creation of The Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival. The third annual event kicks off Sunday, July 17 at JCT Kitchen & Bar at 1pm to benefit Georgia Organics ( “I hear people are going to dress up like tomatoes this year. We have thirty five chefs competing in this crazy, quirky food festival and they want to win.” Last year, Aria executive chef Gerry Klaskala won with a simple grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. JCT’s chef de cuisine, Brian Horn, made a memorable Tomato Jelly Donut filled with tomato jam and bacon flavored mayonnaise. Executive chef Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill created a tomato ice cream sandwich. Fry says “This year we’re doing an heirloom tomato Monte Cristo sandwich and you can count on us using the bacon mayo again.”
“It’s a day that truly showcases the sheer diversity of an ingredient,” says Executive chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud Restaurant, “I’m especially impressed with what the mixologists do with tomatoes.” Way beyond Bloody Mary’s, the creative libations last year included Bacchanalia’s tomato moonshine poured over shaved ice served with sweet condensed buttermilk. Eyester reveals his entry ideas for this Sunday’s festival competition, “We are working on a tomato lemonade beverage and a chilled tomato soup that will spoof the classic Bloody Mary.”

Tomatoes on the Menu
Ford Fry, JCT Kitchen & Bar and No. 246 :
“Tomatoes are one of the only vegetables that need nothing other than salt to make them sing. The tomato will carry all of the other flavors very well and enhance grilled fish, scallops and fresh pasta. Tomatoes are naturally acidic. Acid tends to enhance other natural flavors. A really light dish we’re doing for summer is tomato broth with tortellini and cherry tomatoes and freshly shaved parmesan.”
Ron Eyester, Rosebud Restaurant:
“I’m like a little kid and get so excited when tomatoes are in season. This year I love the sweet amber colored Sungold tomatoes from Crystal Organics farm.” Rosebud’s special Benton Bacon dinner this Thursday night may be a salute to Allan Benton’s celebrated pork products but Eyester says, “I’m just as excited about the local cherry tomatoes in the Cornbread Panzanella salad on the evening’s menu.”
How about those tomatoes? (Nutritionally speaking)
A Medium Tomato
Very Low Calorie/No fat- 35 calories
Vitamin A (20 % of daily needs) - needed for healthy skin and vision.
Vitamin C (57 % of daily needs) - needed for healthy immune system and skin.
1.5 grams Fiber (about the same as slice of whole wheat bread)
Potassium- 300 milligrams (good source) –needed for heart health, blood pressure control. .
Lycopene- excellent course of lycopene, an antioxidant plant nutrient linked to reduced rates of cancer, strong evidence linking tomatoes and diet rich in vegetables to reduced risk of heart disease.
Take Two Bowls of Gazpacho- A Tufts University study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that daily consumption of two bowls of gazpacho for two weeks significantly increased blood levels of vitamin C and decreased biomarkers of stress and inflammation.

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