The Chief Milkmaid of Little Brown Farm talks tomatoes

Posted in Blogs, Culinary

BY VICKY BROWN, Sept. 6, 2013

I promised you a blog with a beautiful and delicious roast.

I’m sorry, it will have to wait.

Roast season is right around the corner, but have you seen those tomatoes?

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I couldn’t stop myself. Market has been so delicious. We are heading into what is undeniably the best food season of the year.

Cherry season is delicious and ushers in the fullness of spring produce after a long winter. (Finally, something other than kale and chard!)

Summer is announced with fresh squash blossoms, arugula and berries, berries, berries!

Once tomatoes arrive in the Pacific Northwest, it is your warning that summer is on its way out. Enjoy it, grab it, embrace it, watch the summer days slip through your fingers like the sand that slips through your toes at the beach. The sunsets will try to distract you from the shortening days. The sunny days will try and lull you into a complacency that it will never end. The flavors will leave you swooning in a stupor of denial that this glorious place could ever be cold and grey. But before it becomes time for winter squash, slow cooking and roasts, I offer you one more distraction before summer turns to autumn and the cycle of regrouping for renewal begins again:  My favorite salad of summer; insalata caprese, Little Brown Farm style.

Your ingredients:

  • Tomatoes — Fresh, local, heirloom. Anything else is a crime, punishable by disappointed tastebuds.
  • Basil — Fresh and local; know your farmer, people!
  • Cheese — Please tell me you know what I’m going to say. Fresh and local and, I’ll say it once more, know your farmer. If you can get mozzarella, go for it, but be sure you know where the cows come from. We at Little Brown Farm have learned to make it with stunning results, using two styles of goat cheese.
  • Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar — Since this isn’t readily available from a local source, ask your local specialty food shop for the best. Don’t skimp here.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

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Caprese 1:

The first Caprese salad was inspired by an intern at the local Bur Oak Acres farm in Langley. She gave me one of her favorite tomatoes and told me about a vertical Caprese salad. Using that inspiration, I started to play.

I cut that beautiful tomato from the base towards, but not through, the stem.

Then I stuffed each slice with a basil leaf and a slice of Little Brown Farm Caprizella. This is what that cheese was developed for, to pair with the savory flavors of summer. I drizzled olive oil and dribbled balsamic vinegar over the top and onto the plate.

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Presentation was spectacular and the taste was sublime.

Caprese 2:

I had a customer at a local market tell me how she made a Caprese salad. Even though hers was prepared as individual salads for a dinner party and I was just serving my family. I tried to emulate it.

I sliced a beautiful tomato from Willowood Farm in Coupeville like I was putting it on a hamburger. I laid a slice on each dish, added two or three leaves of basil and a ball of Little Brown Farm Caprine Cream Chevre. Upon that lovely presentation I, cracked some black pepper, poured olive oil and drizzled balsamic vinegar.

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It was lovely and delicious!

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I wish I could take the credit. While the cheese was definitely a key player, the preparation was simple. However, the true stars of the show were definitely the tomatoes. I am so grateful for the incredible farmers that grow such delicious food!

Can I share one more cheesy snack I made? (It was mostly just to satisfy me so I wouldn’t eat the Caprese salads before I got these pictures.)

The Little Brown Farm Pyramide, paired beautifully with pears from Martin Family Orchards of Orondo, Wash., which are in season now. Simple. Delicious. The snack was delightfully presented on a “Dobby” plate, made by artist Jordan Jones, a talented potter and friend.

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Next time, I will offer up some lovely slow-cook ideas to get you through the short days of winter.

For now, enjoy summer’s last hurrah at a local farmers market. (Bayview Farmers Market is open Saturdays through Oct. 26; then look for the winter market at Bayview Hall Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas). We will be happy to see you there!

Side note: The pretty flowers in these photos are edible. The blue/purple ones are borage and have a bit of a cucumber/melon taste, followed with a fishy flavor I didn’t enjoy. Perhaps next time I will wait to serve them with my salmon. The nasturtiums come in varying shades of yellow, orange and red (orange is the most common) and have a peppery (black pepper) bite to them, which I did enjoy.

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