Make a tomato upgrade

Heirloom tomatoes offer endless varieties of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

uc-santa-cruz-panzanella-salad

UC Santa Cruz’s panzanella salad.

With their variety of shapes, colors and tastes, heirloom tomatoes have become highly coveted by non-commercial chefs—when they can get them. Though availability can be an issue, when heirloom tomatoes are in stock, operators have found many ways to take advantage. Scott Spiker, executive chef at The Erickson Alumni Center at West Virginia University, in Morgantown, says his department substitutes heirlooms for traditional tomatoes whenever and wherever they can, but finds that heirlooms do best in dishes that allow their flavor to shine through.

“I do a roasted heirloom tomato soup, which is a chilled soup similar to a gazpacho,” Spiker says. “We fire roast the tomatoes to color the skin and then pop them in the oven. Then we chill them, remove the seeds and purée them. Then we add some shallots, a tomato-based broth and puréed homestyle bread as a thickener. It’s a really nice summery soup.”

Spiker favors Brandywine tomatoes because they remind him of the ones his grandparents grew in their garden. He’s used the variety in a traditional BLT, which he’ll amp up with fresh basil and a fried egg for a little extra flavor. The tomatoes also work in fresh tomato stacks, a simple dish of grill-marked heirloom tomatoes stacked with fresh mozzarella.

Tomato variety

One way to combat heirloom tomato availability is to grow your own. Kevin Klingensmith, executive chef for Parkhurst Dining at Reed Smith, in Pittsburgh, has planted six or seven types of heirloom tomatoes on the operation’s rooftop garden.

“We planted some Sun Sugars, Brandywine and Cherokee Purple heirlooms,” Klingensmith says. “We plan to use them in sauces and on our salad bars as much as we can. Those varieties should give us a bunch of different shapes, sizes and colors. Some are sweeter and some just have a great general tomato flavor. Some, like the Brandywine, are better for the grill and for sandwiches. I think the key with heirloom tomatoes is to remember you are using them for a reason. You shouldn’t try and hide them. Let them stand out.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Risley Dining Room at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has just become 100 percent gluten-free, 14850.com reports.

For the past two years, the university has slowly phased out gluten in the dining hall’s menu by eliminating it in its stir fries, biscuits and brownies.

Instead of offering gluten-free versions of typical college fare, including pizza and pasta, the dining service team aimed for more sophisticated restaurant-style items.

Along with being gluten-free, Risley is also peanut free and tree-nut free.

The dining room is the second college eatery...

Industry News & Opinion

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., recently hosted a weeklong program called Weigh the Waste, which aimed to show students how much food gets wasted in dining halls, The Breeze reports.

Throughout the week, students placed food they were about to throw away on a scale located near the trash bins at one of their dining halls. At the end of the week, the school tallied the waste and saw that 817 pounds of food had been wasted.

School officials hope that the annual program, which it’s hosted since 2015, will remind dining hall patrons to only take as much food as...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

FSD Resources