Schoolhouse Journals June 2014
Tomato, Tamato or maybe even Tomate?
By Chef Christopher Dobrowolski
The tomato is the edible, often red fruit/berry of the nightshade. The species originated in the South American Andes and its use as a food originated in Mexico, and spread throughout the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Its many varieties are now widely grown, sometimes in greenhouses in cooler climates.
The word “tomato” comes from the Spanish tomate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word tomatotl. It first appeared in print in 1595. A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous (although the leaves are) by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit. Native versions were small, like cherry tomatoes, and most likely yellow rather than red. The tomato is native to western South America and Central America.
Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown: by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas. The Pueblo people are thought to have believed that those who witnessed the ingestion of tomato seeds were blessed with powers of divination.
The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica, and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes. Seems like these guys have been around for a long time and personally one of my favorite’s cold, hot or even raw with salt and pepper. Unfortunately what you normally see in the supermarket today are not really tomatoes, those perfectly red round globes are not what the seam. True tomatoes come in a wide variety of shapes colors and sizes. Next time you are in the store take a stroll over to the organic section and take home some beautiful heirlooms (old seed tomatoes) and taste what the ancients did.
Ok got that out of the way and we can move on to something simply delicious! Here is a little ditty that will make you smile on a hot summer day. Simple ready?
- 1 Thick cut Heirloom Tomato (Brandywine or crimson are my favs)
- 3 fresh basil leaves
- 1 Artesian ciabatta roll
- 1 Sliced thick FRESH mozzarella ball
- Drizzle of a good aged balsamic and some extra virgin oil
- A dash of smoked salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Build it like a sandwich and toast it like a grilled cheese and if you have time throw together a quick pesto to dab on while eating this masterpiece of simplicity.
Ok have to get back to our new summer menu at Schoolhouse and I look forward to seeing you again.
Christopher Dobrowolski/Schoolhouse Restaurant