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.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, Executive Chef Dwight Collins says his department is lucky to be close to the world’s largest hydroponic farm, which keeps him stocked with heirloom tomatoes. The department hopes to have them year-round, but for now the team takes great care to showcase the tomatoes when they do have them available.

“The ideal goal would be to incorporate the heirloom tomatoes into a dish that shows off their looks and flavor,” Collins says. “I think they work well in our panzanella salads, which feature large chunks of tomato and cucumber and large chunks of day-old French bread with a red wine vinaigrette. We also do a bistro series of salads that feature a Greek salad and a caprese salad. They also go well on pizzas like our caprese pizza or flatbread. The flatbread is actually a puff pastry that we brush with a mustard glaze and then put Gruyere cheese on top and melt it.”

Other fun dishes Collins’ department has dished up with the heirloom tomatoes include a ratatouille-stuffed tomato, which featured eggplant, onion, mushrooms, zucchini and a little cheese, and a rustic heirloom tomato soup, which featured larger chunks of tomatoes with their skins, basil, a little cream, Parmesan cheese and onion.

“I like that one because we don’t purée it all the way smooth, so it’s a very colorful and chunky soup,” Collins says of the tomato soup. “We also do a great chicken and goat cheese quesadilla that features heirloom tomatoes. It’s stuffed with goat cheese, ricotta, corn, roasted red peppers, cilantro, diced chicken, heirloom tomatoes and avocado. I think handling the tomatoes as little as possible is key, but if they are tasting really good, it doesn’t matter what you do to them. They will make any dish you put them in taste that much better.”

Beyond putting them on salad bars, it’s often tough for schools to get creative with heirloom tomatoes. But Keith Haigh, foodservice director with NutriServe at Haddonfield Public Schools, in New Jersey, says there have been a few chances to have some fun with different heirloom varieties.

“The middle school and the high school are no longer in the school nutrition program, which allows us to be a little more creative with our dishes,” Haigh says.

One example was a salsa that was made featuring multicolored heirloom tomatoes, which were served with a soft taco made of battered rockfish and shredded lettuce. In addition to the tomatoes, the salsa included lime juice, red onion, a touch of garlic, sea salt and cracked black pepper. “You got the tartness of the lime juice, the sweetness of the tomatoes and the saltiness of the fish and it really just was incredible,” he adds.

Haigh also has used Brandywine tomatoes for grilled cheese sandwiches. “What I like about [the Brandywine] the most is that they have a tendency to contrast the food as opposed to overpowering them with the tomato flavor,” he says. “They have a higher density to them and a sweeter taste and so they go nice with a grilled cheese and tomato. We also do a roasted veggie sandwich with spinach, roasted red peppers, some heirlooms and red onion on a crusty seeded Italian bread, topped with provolone cheese. You can use it as a teaching moment to teach the kids that tomatoes come in all different colors.”

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
quicken loans arena

The primary elections have ended, and all political eyes are turned to the 2016 Republican and Democratic national conventions. Tens of thousands of politicos, delegates, reporters and visitors will flock to Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively, in July—and someone has to feed them all.

Below, FoodService Director takes a sneak peek behind the scenes at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, which seats more than 20,000 people. The logistics for the Republican National Convention have been coming together for more than a year, says Audrey Scagnelli, national press secretary for the...

Sponsored Content
vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to...

Industry News & Opinion

Aramark today announced a partnership with celebrity chef and TV personality Cat Cora that will put a new concept from the Top Chef star in Aramark’s North American business-and-industry accounts.

The new fast-casual concept, called Olilo by Cat Cora, promises a healthy, made-your-way menu, according to the global foodservice provider.

“By bringing together Chef Cora's award-winning brand and healthy cooking advocacy and Aramark's commitment to enriching and nourishing the lives of the thousands of consumers we serve every day, we have an opportunity to elevate the on-site...

Industry News & Opinion

Members of Congress and several advocacy groups gathered on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to highlight the potential loss of millions in state funding because of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization block grant introduced last month, and to call upon legislators to squash the bill.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 houses a statute that would provide three unannounced pilot states with block grant funding. Participating states would be exempt from federal nutrition regulations and would no longer qualify for the 6-cent reimbursement per lunch garnered by certified...

FSD Resources