Local food festivals:

With the summer months in full swing, it’s that time when all the local farmers and markets showcase their crops. Not only does it help awareness but gets their names out to help them thrive in the era of big box stores. There is something to be said for the local farmer. Their passion and enthusiasm about their crops are palpable and the enthusiasm is contagious.

I remember a few from my childhood in New England. Right around the corner was a strawberry festival which was closed down due to housing developments before I was even old enough to enjoy it. There were many fall based ones around for apples and pumpkins. Looking back I wish I was enticed as a kid about farm fresh produce, because now it’s extremely important to me.

I do buy produce at my local grocery store, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we all have to. What I do have is the luxury of three farmers markets within 15 miles of my house. So that means on any given day I can get local, home grown, and organic produce, often for a fraction of the cost from the grocery store. I realize that is not an option for all, but becoming aware of your local communities farmers is a great start towards sustainability and community economics.

Getting off the soapbox, I NEED to tell you about the tomato festival we visited this past Sunday. It was the third annual tasty tomato festival brought to us by a local urban garden center. There were a mixture of venders that had everything from local arts, crafts and jewelry, to home made eats with the featured tomato.

Plus, they had a Bloody Mary bar! There was heirloom tomato tasting, tomato sandwiches made right in front of you, along with several other vendors that utilized the tomato in creative and scrumptious ways. Did I mention the Bloody Mary bar?

It was a hot day and the place filled up really quickly (we were early arrivers, of course). We got a chance to talk to and see almost all the vendors and met some really cool folks, too. Upon exit, I wasn’t going home without any of these prized beauties. Not only did we get a good sampling of every kind of tomato the Southeast has to offer, we got seeds and an heirloom plant of our own to add to the garden at home. All in all great day!

Now I will tell you what I am going to do with all these. First, it was less than five minutes after I got home when I dove into the first heirloom like an apple. Jackpot! Almost indescribably good, it stood no chance. While we got a plethora of varietals, I just wanted to test one last night.

Tonight I am making this: Smoked, stuffed heirloom tomatoes with garlic, mozzarella and basil.

I am going to cook these indirect on my gas grill on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. I will trim off the top of the tomato and de-seed. On the bottom I will cut a small notch so they stand upright on the cookie sheet. In the hollowed areas where the seeds were, I will drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over them then lightly salt and pepper. Next, cut some wafer thin garlic slices to place in the holes. Then fill those with mozzarella and top with hand-torn fresh basil. I will load up my smoker box with apple juice soaked apple wood chips. Cook uncovered until that cheese is bubbly…

That’s it. I will have pictures, salsa and bruschetta to follow, so check back.

Thank you tasty tomato festival for inspiring me to make a local, fresh and better meal!

-J

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About 34BBQ

I am here to share my experiences in the culinary outdoors...and to get people grilling all year 'round! I am "culinary enthusiast" who studied the arts at Culinary and Wine Institute - University of South Carolina. I love food photography and BBQ and I like to cook using my outdoor grills as much as I can. -Jay

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