Celebrating a summertime superstar the holy heirloom tomato in both the garden and the kitchen

by Chef Peter Botros

Tomato lovers are spoiled here in the Northeast. Right across the bridge, New Jersey’s loam-rich soil yields full-bodied heirlooms that are tender, juicy, and flavorful. Each year, local farmers grow more than 75 million pounds of the tangy fruit, and while farmers markets and produce stands across the borough will be teeming with tomatoes this summer, nothing tastes better than the Tomatoes are fragile. Once satisfaction of growing them at home. Here are a few pro tips for delicious backyard tomatoes.

• Tomatoes love the sun and soak up the rays like water. Choose the sunniest spot in your garden for your tomato plant, and make sure the plant receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight per day

• Tomatoes thrive in slightly acidic (a pH of 6.0-6.5 is optimal), well-drained soil. Feel free to go heavy on the compost as tomatoes are avid eaters.

• Water the tomatoes one inch per week.

• Be sure the soil is free of any trees or shrub roots (they’ll compete for nutrients), but you can plant basil, garlic, and onions nearby, as they help repel pests. A border of marigolds can also protect your precious tomato plants from unwanted bugs.

Hand & Stone SPREAD

Tomatoes are fragile. Once satisfaction of growing them at home. Here are a few pro tips for delicious backyard tomatoes. picked or purchased, ensure they maintain peak freshness by storing them in an organized, room temperature setting. Never keep whole, uncut tomatoes in the refrigerator as temperatures below 60 degrees can cause the skin to turn mealy and mushy. Place ripe tomatoes stem-side down on a paper towel or in an open container, and they should last for up to a week. For unripe tomatoes, store them in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process.

Ingredients: 5 lbs peeled heirloom tomatoes (hand-crushed) ¼ cup tomato paste 1 cup sliced shallots ¼ cup minced garlic ¼ cup roasted garlic 2 tbs crushed red pepper ¼ cup honey ¼ cup balsamic vinegar ¼ cup unsalted butter ¼ cup EVOO 3 tbs kosher salt 1 cup basil (hand torn)

Directions: In a saucepan on medium heat, add sliced shallots and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper, minced garlic, roasted garlic, butter, salt, EVOO, and tomato paste, saute for 3-4 minutes. Add honey and heirloom tomatoes, simmer for 15-20 minutes or until sauce is at desired consistency. Stir in basil. Serve with your favorite pasta.

Chef Peter Botros
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