Never in a bazillion years did I ever think I’d be saying this, but tomato season is just too. damn. short! I mean I only started popping sungolds in my mouth for the first time seven weeks ago and now they likely only have a couple weeks left! Two months of tomatoes?! That is just not enough.
It’s weird though. That I’m suddenly a person who gets all worked up about tomatoes (and boy do I!). I used to hate tomatoes. Like really, really hated them. They were slippery and wet and a little bit slimy and I just thought they were the world’s worst wanna be fruit.
I have this vivid memory from a family reunion when I was 12 years old. My little cousins were just being so cool and healthy, popping cherry tomatoes in their mouth from their dad’s gardens and just absolutely loving them. I thought, okay, I can do this. These little 8 and 10 year olds are eating cherry tomatoes by the handful. They can’t be that bad. It’s got to be way different than a big slimy tomato. It’s probably got a totally different texture.
I put one in my mouth. I felt it with my tongue. It was not altogether unpleasant. The round little tomato almost felt like a grape in my mouth. It was cool and smooth. I bit into it, already beeming with pride at my changing taste buds. The tomato exploded. My mouth filled with this slimy, seedy, acidic, not at all sweet and fruit-like, totally disgusting liquid. I spit it out immediately, an involuntary kind of reaction to something utterly vile trying to make it’s way into my body.
I think that was the last time I tried a raw tomato until I moved to Madison. The beauty of the tomatoes at the farmer’s market enticed me. Ten years had gone by. Clearly I could try again. These attempts were much more successful, but mostly because I buried the fresh tomatoes in a pool of balsamic vinegar, mozzarella and basil. I still wasn’t totally sold on tomatoes until I began growing them.
Now, suddenly, I can’t get enough. Maybe it was persistence that got me to liking tomatoes. Maybe it’s pride. Who knows? Maybe the soil that we grow on has some sort of magical quality that makes tomatoes taste better. I don’t know what it is but I just won’t stop bringing home crate after crate (after crate after crate) of tomatoes. Seriously, you should see me when the first cherry tomatoes ripen in July. I’m a fiend. I find the only 9 ripe fruits out there and nab them all up with zealous greed. I don’t even pretend like I had a plan of offering one to anybody else. I just down them all.
It’s hard to believe those joyous days were already over a month ago. Boy the farming season sure moves fast. We slide from spinach to scallions to summer squash to tomatoes to pumpkins in the blink of an eye. Luckily, I’ve been cooking pretty much every spare second. Our new kitchen has been a remarkably happy place this summer, filled with space and light. We spend our evenings turning vegetables into pure joy.
The highlight of our new kitchen and this tomato season is a balsamic tomato jam that I tested three, yes three, times until I found just the right combination of flavors. Don’t worry, I found something to do with all the test batches. Atop a biscuit stuffed full of caramelized shallots and leeks and a giant pat of sage honey butter, this lovely treat has been breakfast, lunch and dinner over the past several weeks. I really never need an excuse to whip up a batch of biscuits and a fridge filled with mason jars of sticky sweet heirloom tomatoes simmered into jam seems to be just the impetus I need.
To experience this jam, you don’t necessarily need to make biscuits or butter this fancy. (I have this neurotic habit of trying to use all the leftover veggies on my counter together in one dish. It’s been my major source of inspiration this summer: finding a way to tie everything together.) The tomato jam on it’s own is total magic. I’ve been slathering it on breakfast sandwiches, BLTs (en lieu of the T sometimes, other times in addition to it) and burgers. I’ve used it as a compote over grits on the side of a nice grilled pork chop. It’s tasty on slices of grilled eggplant. I’ve definitely also just eaten it with a spoon.
So if you’re buried in tomatoes and wanting to hang on to summer just a bit longer, whip up a batch of this tomato jam. It’s literally sunshine in a jar.
With tomatoes, cool breezes and sunshine, I wish you the happiest of Labor Day weekends.
Lots of love,
TOMATO BALSAMIC JAM OVER CARAMELIZED SHALLOT & LEEK BISCUITS WITH SAGE HONEY BUTTER
Takes 2 hours for jam (much of it inactive, can easily make biscuits and butter while you wait)
3 cups diced, cored tomatoes
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice
1 batch Caramelized Shallot & Leek Biscuits (below)
1 bath Sage Honey Butter (below)
- Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to a thick jam (about two hours). Stir often to keep the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Top warm biscuits with butter and a generous helping of tomato jam!
Caramelized Shallot & Leek Biscuits:
11 tablespoons butter, divided
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1-1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 leek, halved and sliced (white and pale green parts only)
3 teaspoons sugar, divided
2-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup white cheddar, shredded
- Cube 9 tablespoons of the butter and place in the freezer until ready to use.
- Melt additional 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add shallots, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add leeks, stir to combine and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for additional 15 minutes until just beginning to brown, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if browning too quickly. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and reduce heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often until all shallots and leeks are caramelized. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining salt and remaining sugar in a large bowl. Add cold butter and cut in with two forks or a pastry blender. You’ll want the butter to be semi uniform in size and mixed throughout. Use your fingers to pinch it into smaller pieces if you like but do so quickly. You don’t want to warm the butter up. Add caramelized shallots and leeks along with white cheddar and stir to combine. Use your fingers to make sure caramelized shallots are incorporated throughout mixture. Add buttermilk and stir until dough comes together.
- Turn out dough onto a floured counter and press into a square about 6×6-inches. Cut into 9 pieces and put on baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until puffed in height and golden brown. Serve warm with tomato jam!
Sage Honey Butter:
1 stick butter, softened
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- In a medium bowl, add butter, sage, honey and salt. Stir until uniform and well-combined. Chill until ready to use.