Friday, 20 June 2014

Chicken with Mini Market Tomatoes

A basket of assorted tomatoes from Dargatz Family Farm

I have to admit, I was so excited to see the small baskets of assorted mini tomatoes at Dargatz Family Farm's booth this past week at the market. Forget the first crops of radishes and spinach to come off the local fields: to me, that one simple sighting of assorted mini tomatoes marks the beginning of true market season. It is the beauty, the variety and the differing tastes that excite me.

Bags of mini yellow cherry and zebra tomatoes at S4
Tomatoes are amazing plants because they come in thousands of varieties! There are the increasingly well known, super-sweet mini yellow tomatoes (sold in small bags at S4 Greenhouses' booth and at Dargatz Family Farm's tables); there are my personal favourites, the zebra tomatoes (with their green and red stripes, their meaty & thick skin, their decidedly chewy texture, and their incredible flavour); and there are unusual varieties like the Chocolate Cherry (a tomato, named for its brown appearance, in the absence of any cocoa flavour). 

When market season really gets going,
this is what you can find!
Some mini tomatoes are large like a child's bouncy ball. Some are smaller than a grape. They come in a rainbow of colours: some are lemony yellow and some are golden; some are scarlet and some are deep red; some are striped and some are spotted; some are deep red while others are brown; and some are even green.

Colin Dargatz loves to experiment in the field and greenhouse, growing different varieties of weird and wonderful, traditional and heirloom varieties of hot peppers, herbs (including wonderful ones to experiment with like lovage, which easily replaces celery in any soup or stew recipe, and sorrel, with its incredible, lemony tang) and tomatoes alike.

Going to his booth is like going on a treasure hunt. Each week there is a new hidden gem to find.

Talking to Colin, or his brother Keith, is fascinating. There is a passion there for growing and experimentation, a pride of ownership and a decidedly artistic sensibility. Great care is taken in bringing an incredibly wide assortment of items to market. Due to the incredible variety of items they bring, it is important to hit their booth early when you come to the market so that the widest selection of treasures is available... they often bring only a small amount of each item.

A basket of assorted heirloom varieties, including
the "fireworks" tomato with its starburst patterning.
We all know that there are health benefits to eating tomatoes and that we greatly benefit from eating them frequently in our diet. Tomatoes contain the "three amigos:" a powerful trio of phytochemicals called sera-carotene  phytoene and phytofluene, that have strong disease-fighting potential. High in vitamins A & C and an excellent source of antioxidants, tomatoes are perhaps most famous for containing lycopene. The humble tomato's micronutrient powerhouse is widely purported to:
  • significantly reduce the risk of many cancers (prostate, breast, endometrial, cervical, lung, stomach, pancreatic, esophageal, oral),
  • improve eye health and reduce the risk of age-related macular regeneration, 
  • inhibit heart disease & reduce blood pressure, and
  • reduce oxidative stress in bone disease in post menopausal women 
(For more specific information on how and why tomatoes are good for you, this site provides and easy and in-depth read : An Important Message About Tomatoes). 

recipe: chicken with assorted market-fresh mini tomatoes

This is a very quick & easy recipe to make. A simple topping of wonderfully tangy mixed cherry tomatoes makes this very delicious and beautiful/ Experiment with the variety available at our market. 

Cooking the tomatoes boosts their antioxidant availability & gives them a richer, more intense flavour. Cooking tomatoes also significantly increases our intestinal absorption of them, increasing the impact of their health benefits on our body systems. And carotenoids, found in tomatoes, are fat-soluble nutrients, so you need to eat them with a little fat, like the olive oil in this recipe, to take full advantage of them.

Chicken with Mini Market Tomatoes
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ t. kosher salt, divided
1/4 t. finely ground black pepper, divided
1 T. olive oil
4c. red &/or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat leaved parsley
2 T. water
2 T. white wine vinegar

Sprinkle chicken with 1/4t. salt & 1/8t. pepper. In a large non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat (don't let it smoke or it will burn). Add chicken. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. If breasts are thick, consider covering the pan with a lid to steam them to speed up the cooking time (keeping them tender and not tough & rubbery with some parts overcooked). Transfer chicken to a plate & keep warm.

Add tomatoes, parsley, water, vinegar, the remaining 1/4t. salt & 1/8t. pepper to the skillet. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Serve tomato mixture over chicken.

where can you find ingredients at our market?
  • Dargatz Family Farm & S4 Greenhouses carry cherry tomatoes.
  • Dargatz Family Farm & Holden Colony sell parsley.
  • Sunworks Organic Farm sells organic, free-range chicken breasts

Nutritional info from The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., C.N.S. and
Recipe from The New Sonoma Cookbook: Simple Recipes for a Healthy, More Delicious Way To Live, by Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD, p. 131
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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