On Tuesday August 8, some of the chicken salads on the dinner trays created for inpatients in Kaiser Permanente's 19 hospitals were graced with sustainably farmed (no pesticides) cherry tomatoes from Chuao Vang's 9 acre, leased farm outside of Fresno. According to Anya Fernald of the Community Alliance for Family Farmers, who has partnered with Kaiser Permanente to connect our food system with small family farmers, Mr. Vang is very happy to have Kaiser Permanente as a customer. He and other small farmers had been squeezed out of the market that services large, institutional purchasers. Organic strawberries for dessert came from Aurelia Martinez of the Santa Rosa Farm in Salinas.
Those of you who read Carol Ness' article in the San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday, August 6) learned that the number of small family farmers has been decreasing while there is a substantial increase in the number of bigger farms. Keeping our small family farms, particularly those farming without pesticides, is ultimately good for all of us. If you get a chance this week, shop at a farmers' market. We will continue to use food from the family farmers for five to six thousand meals per day in our Northern California hospitals.
I got so excited about this week's recipe that I used it under pan-roasted rockfish, under crab cakes and as a salad dressing, After I threatened to use it on chicken breasts and under scrambled Egg Beaters, I found that it had been surreptitiously labeled "All-Purpose" by a family member. Find big, fat and heavy heirloom tomatoes at your market.
2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes of different colors
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut the tomatoes in half. Scoop out most of the seeds with your finger. Let them rest cut-side down on paper towel for about 5 minutes. Using the largest holes on a box grater in a big bowl, grate the cut-side of the tomatoes and discard the skin. This part is quite satisfying as the skin just sort of flattens out against the grater. You should have 2/3 to 1 cup of purée. Add the minced garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Whisk until blended. Season to taste. The sweetness of the tomatoes is a great balance for the acidity of the vinegar. Find new ways to use it.