It’s August in Kansas City, it’s hot, and we are at the height of the heirloom tomato season. Heirloom tomatoes are in demand right now, but the record rain and early cool temps have slowed production by two-thirds, according to some area farmers.
I have a cute story to tell about my nephew and his son. You can just imagine how many tomatoes we go through at Jasper’s each week for our Tableside Mozzarella & Heirloom Tomato Experience. This past June my nephew was out in the backyard in the Watts Mill parking lot next to our recycling container and saw a 12-inch plant growing. After further inspection, he noticed it was a tomato plant. Some seeds had fallen to the ground, and voila! A tomato plant had its beginnings.
My nephew transplanted the plant into a larger pot and brought it home for his son to raise. He calls it Leo’s Tomato Plant, and pictured here is little Leo and his summer tomato project. He waters it daily and is anxiously awaiting the day when he gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor. I think it is so cute that he calls it his “Killer Tomato Plant.”
I have been fortunate to again work with the Kurlbaum family in Kansas City, Kan., for my local heirloom tomatoes with varieties such as Purple Cherokee, Pineapple, Mortgage Lifters, Aunt Ruby’s Green, Arkansas Travelers, Black Pineapple, Brandywine and Gold Medal. Much as in wine tasting, each tomato brings forth differences in acidity, sweetness and texture. The gel coat around the seeds can be very jellylike. Some are more meaty, and others are more viscous.
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This year I have been working on a new recipe with heirloom tomatoes and incorporating these gems into a spice cake for dessert. Talk about delicious and so easy to prepare. I think it’s “killer” also!
Here is the recipe. I highly recommend you serve it with some homemade ice cream. It just spells “summertime.”
Chef Jasper’s Heirloom Tomato, Fig & Olive Oil Cake
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 cup dried figs, diced
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10-inch round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease parchment and inner sides of pan. Mix all dry ingredients except nuts and raisins. Add olive oil and eggs. Mix thoroughly. Fold in chopped tomatoes, figs and nuts. Add mixture to baking pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until center tests clean with a toothpick. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with lemon icing.
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice or Limoncello liqueur
Mix both ingredients in small mixing bowl. Drizzle on cake when cool.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.