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Blog posts of '2017' 'May'

Tastes & Traditions: Tomato Season and Edible Flowers

edible flowers

Tastes & Traditions

Tomato Season and Edible Flowers

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

With the growth of visually-driven social platforms, food is trending towards needing to be as appetizing to the eyes as it is to the palate. Bright and flavorful vegetables, fruits, and plants serve as either the garnish or the main component of home-made or chef-driven creations, allowing us to dive into Spring with plenty of opportunity for fresh and vibrant dishes. As the desire for farm-to-table dining proliferates, more and more people are turning to their own green thumb in creating edible gardens for their fruits, vegetables, and garnishes. 

chef working with edible flowers

edible flowers and tomatoes make the perfect pair

As tomato season is escalating into full gear, home gardeners and farmers market aficionados will enjoy a vast array of tomatoes, spanning from cherry, yellow pear, roma, or heirloom varieties. One of the tomato’s many benefits is that once they begin growing, they flourish, yielding a robust crop that creates the need for innovative uses for all of the extra tomatoes. 

matfer prep chef used to slice tomatoes

From homemade ketchup, to fried green tomatoes, to topical skin cleansers and sunburn ointments, tomatoes are nature’s superfood. Smoking tomatoes gives them an extra depth of flavor and allows for longer term storage, and adds an extra interesting kick to any dish they are incorporated in. 

summer is the perfect time for edible flowers and tomatoes

chef carefully placing edible flowers with tweezers

Edible flowers used as a garnish will pump up the flavor and visual aesthetics of any dish that warrants a fresh, springy flourish. Borage is a particularly vibrant and delicious flower, easy to grow, and loved by honeybees for some additional love to the rest of the garden. Borage is said to “make the mind glad” – as new science has shown that the plant stimulates the adrenal glands, giving people who consume them a mild energy buzz. Borage is great to grow with tomatoes, as they both respond particularly well to sunlight, and the honeybees drawn to the borage will help facilitate the healthy growth of the tomatoes. 

edible flowers and tomatoes in tarts on matfer silicone mat

edible flower and tomatoes make the perfect pair

Modern use of cooking and garnishing with edible flowers originated in England, with flower-infused teas and jams, that have expanded into flower-adorned main courses and desserts. As chefs embrace this resurgent trend, we can expect more home cooks to take to their gardens to enjoy fresh, garden-to-table Spring produce, for easy and healthy daily cooking. Read more in this month's featured chef spotlight with Casey Thompson.

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Flat Bottom Mixing Bowl, Exopat® Nonstick Baking Mat, Multi Cut Prep Chef, Geisser Messer Knife, Exoglass® Inividual Deep Tartlet Mold, & Blue Steel Oven Baking Sheet.

Chef Spotlight: Casey Thompson

Chef Casey Thompson

Chef Spotlight

Casey Thompson

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

From owner of the luxurious Aveline Restaurant in San Francisco to shrewd restaurant and hotel consultant, Chef Casey Thompson has taken the culinary world by storm. She began her journey as a prep cook at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and now spends most of her time in Napa working with local farmers and wineries. Chef Casey is a female entrepreneur and entertainer who has a passion for teaching and learning new things in the culinary space. She shared her story one evening as we sipped chardonnay and watched her bake a tomato tart adorned with edible flowers.

Fresh tomatoes and edible flowers

Chef Casey Thompson preparing pastry dough

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE THAT YOU HAVE HAD IN DEVELOPING YOUR COOKING STYLE?

I am influenced everyday by chefs that get up early, get to the market and those that continually push. It helps me to push myself. Beyond that, I think travel and cookbooks drove me to develop a style of my own. It taught me different cuisines and techniques in such beautiful places or in pictures of color.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT TO YOUR “SOUTHERN TOMATO PIE” RECIPE?

Ha! I would say mayonnaise. Because it really does make the world go ‘round. I am Southern and I was raised to love it on everything, even chips! I’ve been told that I put too much mayonnaise on sandwiches when it is squishing out of the holes of my bread. I say, that's when it's just right. It's savory, rich and decadent.

Chef Casey Thompson parbaking the tartlet shells

HAVE YOU EVER BOUGHT A PRE-MADE PIE OR TART CRUST BEFORE? DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR MAKING IT AT HOME?

Of course! And, really, I have had talks with many different pastry chefs, and there is nothing wrong with a good quality artisan frozen crust. I like to make my dough, roll it out and then chill and "rest" it. It's ready to go when you are ready to put it in the pan- there is no waiting for the dough to temp. In making the dough, I absolutely love using the ceramic beans from Matfer. The perfect pie or tart hangs on the precise quality of the crust, and the beans can be reused, they cool quickly, and they hold the crust’s shape perfectly.

Chef Casey Thompson chopping scallions

Chef Casey Thompson slicing fresh tomatoes

HOW DO THE TOOLS THAT YOU USE IN COOKING OR BAKING MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE END-PRODUCT?

There is a reason why a sharp knife makes or breaks the success of a chef. The right tool for the job is so important, and now that there are tools designed for the chef-studied to be more efficient and of more quality, we can be better at our jobs. If the tool can help us to continually cook and have the product come out moister, fluffier, more even in color than ever before, that's a score! In making the tomato tart, I was so taken aback by how easy and fast it was to slice with the Prep Chef! The slicer we currently have is somewhat bulky and difficult to clean, so my staff has been so excited to start using it to expedite their prep time.

Chef Casey Thompson preparing the filling

Chef Casey Thompson picking her edible flowers

YOU’VE TRAVELED A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT CUISINES. WHERE DO YOU PLAN ON GOING NEXT?

We are having a really busy year. We're "planning" to visit Japan and Italy this year, but it's already May! So, I better get these trips in motion. I love to travel - it wakes me up and makes me feel alive.

AT MORADA, HOW DO YOU SOURCE YOUR LOCAL INGREDIENTS?

It's really easy to do this in SoCal. For goodness sake, I have Chino Farms down the road. We are very fortunate. We have trucks pull up to our backdoor with things I have never even heard of! It's so educational for all of my cooks.

Filling the tartlets

HOW OFTEN DO YOU COOK WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS?

I love them. Any time they work, I try to make the dishes even more pretty with flowers. It's like eating in a garden. I expect a butterfly to come down and join you.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO PREPARE TOMATOES?

Hands down, warm from the sun, sliced, olive oil, Maldon salt and fresh black pepper. I drizzle a good lemon on them and go to town. Just like my grandmother did from her garden. They don't need much when they are good. 

Chef Casey Thompson baking the tartlets

Chef Casey Thompson placing tomatoes on the tartlets

IF WE WERE TO GROW OUR OWN GARDEN, WHAT HERBS, VEGETABLES OR FLOWERS SHOULD WE START WITH?

I do this every year in my own garden- tomatoes (Sun Gold), basil, chives, thyme, and strawberries. We also have citrus trees, cherry trees, plum and pear out back. It is Napa after all. All things good right out the backdoor. I love succulents because they live for me. :) I do roses. They are so wonderful. You either love them or hate them. They remind me of my grandparent’s houses.

Placing on the edible flowers and the final product

Chef Casey Thompson holding her tart

Tools for the Taste

As a master chef, the tools you use matter. Add the following items to your kitchen to achieve outstanding results: Flat Bottom Mixing Bowl, Exopat® Nonstick Baking Mat, Multi Cut Prep Chef, Geisser Messer Knife, Exoglass® Inividual Deep Tartlet Mold, & Blue Steel Oven Baking Sheet.