They don’t call us the Garden State for nothing. New Jersey is a great place to live if you like fresh fruits and veggies—who doesn’t though?—and we even cultivate some of our varietals of produce. Enter the Jersey tomato, also known as the “Rutgers tomato” since it was cultivated at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1934. At one point, the Jersey tomato was the most popular variety in the world, used to make Heinz ketchup and Campbell’s tomato soup products, but it died out by the 1960s.
However, to make a long story short, in 2009 the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station made some tweaks to its farming process and brought this yummy fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) back to life, and now, these flavorful, juicy tomatoes can be found in abundance at farmer’s markets across the state during the summer.
And sure, tomatoes are great chopped up in a salad or paired with eggs or avocado on a bagel or toast. But your Jersey tomatoes deserve more. Here’s a fresh way to show off your bushel: This recipe for “tomato roses” from Love the Foods That Love You Back: Clean, Healthy, Vegan Recipes for Everyone by Cathy Katin-Grazzini (Rizzoli; April 2022) is delicious, nutritious and a surefire way to impress your end-of-summer dinner guests.
Yields 6 servings
For the dough:
—1 ½ cups chickpea flour (a.k.a. besan), plus more as needed
—1 Tbs. freshly ground golden flaxseed
—1 Tbs. arrowroot powder
—1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
—1/2 tsp. granulated onion
—1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
—1 tsp. dried oregano
—1/3 cup silken tofu, drained, plus more if needed
—1/2 tsp. shiro (mild white) miso, or to taste
For the tomato roses:
—6 ripe 3-inch-diameter tomatoes
—1 small young eggplant
—1 medium yellow squash
—1 medium zucchini
—1/2 cup Garlic-Herb Sauce
—1 cup Roasted Sweet Pepper Sauce
—1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
For the Garlic-Herb Sauce:
—1 head roasted garlic
—1½ packed cups tender herbs
—1/3 cup nutritional yeast
—1 tsp. shiro miso or to taste
—freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
—1/2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
—Up to 1 cup of water
For the Roasted Sweet Pepper Sauce:
—1 lb. mini bell peppers (a mixture of colors)
—1 tsp. aka (red) miso, or to taste
—freshly ground white pepper
To make the dough, put the chickpea flour, flaxseed, arrowroot, nutritional yeast, granulated onion and garlic and oregano in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to combine. Add the tofu and miso. Run the food processor for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the dough hydrates fully and gathers into a ball. The texture should be soft and pliant but not wet. Adjust with a bit more chickpea flour if too wet or tofu if dry. Remove the ball from the food processor and wrap it in plastic to prevent drying.
Slice off the top 1/2 inch of each tomato. With a spoon, scrape out the interior pulp and seeds, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Stuff a half sheet of paper towel into each tomato shell, invert, and allow the juices to be absorbed, replacing the paper towels as needed.
Using a mandoline, very thinly slice the eggplant, squash, and zucchini into 1/16 inch disks, discarding the stems and ends. If you don’t have a mandoline, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut thin, uniform slices. Each chickpea cup can hold around twenty-four 1/16-inch vegetable slices (your “rose petals”).
To make the garlic herb sauce, in a blender, combine the roasted garlic, herbs, nutritional yeast, miso, pepper and lemon juice (if using) with 1/2 cup of the water. Process until very smooth, adding a few more tablespoons of water to achieve a dense, spreadable sauce.
To make a pourable dressing, thin with up to 1/2 cup additional water. Taste and correct seasonings as you like.
To make the roasted red pepper sauce, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stem and core the peppers then dry roast them until they have softened, collapsed and begun to darken on their edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer the peppers to a high-speed blender. Add the miso and season with white pepper. Add 1/2 cup water and purée until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. For a thinner sauce or to make a glaze, just add more water and blend to combine. Sweet pepper sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a board sprinkled with chickpea flour, roll out your dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 3/16 inch. If the dough begins to adhere to the board, lift the dough, flour the board, flip the dough to the other side, and continue rolling. Cut out 6 circles with the ring mold or lid, and one at a time, press each one in a 3¼ by 1¼-inch brioche tin to shape into a fluted cup. Set aside the fluted cups. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the whole wheat panko into each pastry cup.
To form the rose shape, the vegetable slices need to be rolled tightly. To do this, soften each vegetable type separately by either microwaving the slices in a bowl of water for 20 seconds and then allow them to steep until pliant but still intact, or steeping the veggies in hot water for several minutes. Do not over steep or the thin slices may disintegrate. Drain and pat them dry.
To compose your roses, lay 8 slices of eggplant flat on the board, overlapping them by 1/4 inch, followed by 8 slices of the zucchini, then 8 slices of the squash. Once all the slices are thus arranged, tightly roll them up, taking care to hold all the slices together as you go. Transfer the roll immediately to a chickpea cup, which will hold the rose together. Repeat until all the chickpea cups are filled with roses.
Remove the paper towels from the tomatoes. Use a pastry brush to paint the Garlic-Herb Sauce on the upper third of the interior walls of each tomato cavity. Fill the bottom of each tomato with 1/4 inch of bread crumbs. Now place each rose-filled chickpea cup into a tomato. Place all the tomato roses on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Thin the roasted red pepper sauce with water to make a glaze that you can easily brush on. Glaze each tomato, including each cup and its vegetable rose, and bake on the middle oven rack for about 30 minutes, reapplying the sweet pepper glaze at 20 minutes and checking for doneness.
Remove them from the oven when the tomato shells are golden and the edges of the vegetables are just beginning to brown. Reglaze them one final time. Serve them warm on heated plates.
All photos and recipe are reprinted with permission from Love the Foods That Love You Back: Clean, Healthy, Vegan Recipes for Everyone by Cathy Katin-Grazzini, Rizzoli New York, April 2022. Photography by Giordano Katin-Grazzini.