You Say Tomato

Meet the Father of the Tomato,
Learn How to Grill-Smoke Tomatoes,
and Make Smoked Tomato and Basil Butter
I spend part of my culinary life in a “working tiara”—as a BBQ Queen with friend, bbq-er, and cookbook co-author Karen Adler.  Lucky for me, that black visor duded up with all those rhinestones also doubles as a garden hat.
Last year, I visited Kurlbaum Tomatoes in Kansas City, Kansas, for inspiration. Sky Kurlbaum and family grow heirloom tomatoes that, he swears, taste just like the ones grown 35 years ago on the family farm in Sandoval, Illinois. Today, their heirloom varieties are a roll call of famous people and places: Abraham Lincoln, Amana Orange, Black Krim (from the Crimean Sea), Russian Purple, and Pantano Romanesco.

Black Krim Heirloom Tomato

The Father of the Tomato?  Kurlbaum also makes a case for an Ohioan—Alexander Livingston—as the Father of the Tomato. In Reynoldsburg, Ohio, Livingston started working with tomatoes in 1856--ones that had “heavy ribbing, hard cores and often had hollow seed cavities,” writes Kurlbaum.  No wonder tomatoes hadn’t really caught on yet.

“Livingston's goal was to produce a strain of tomato that was smooth skinned, uniform in size, fleshy and that excelled in flavor –all the things that are loved and often taken for granted about tomatoes today,” continues Kurlbaum.   Read more about it at the end of the “Tomato Varieties” section at
For me, all that planting, weeding, and tending my garden is beginning to pay off. I just harvested my first tomato of season.
The first tomato deserves to be enjoyed al fresco—fresh from the garden, warm from the sun, maybe with a little sprinkle of sea salt.
But as the harvest revs up, as Heartland harvests do, it soon becomes time to do something more than eat tomatoes fresh.
When I have more fresh tomatoes than I want to eat, I like to smoke them on the grill. I do a little yard work at the same time and throw a few pin oak sticks on the fire, but you can use any hard wood (like apple, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, or pecan).
How to Smoke a Tomato. Prepare an indirect fire in your grill, meaning a fire on one side and no fire on another.
Stem the tomatoes or cut them in half (depending on how big they are), brush them with a little olive oil, and put them in a disposable aluminum pan, stemmed or cut side up. If you like, put fresh basil leaves in each tomato.

When the fire is hot, throw a few pieces of wood on hot coals on a charcoal grill. For a gas grill, make an aluminum foil packet to enclose ½ cup fine wood chips and poke a few holes in the packet; place the packet close to a burner. When you see the first wisp of smoke, place the pan of tomatoes on the indirect or no-heat side and close the lid of the grill. In about 20 minutes, the tomatoes will have a burnished appearance and a smoky aroma.
Freeze some, then use some more to make Smoked Tomato and Basil Butter. 

Russian Purple Heirloom Tomato
  Smoked Tomato and Basil Butter Recipe. Simply take 2 sticks of salted butter, softened, and place  in a bowl. Add about 3 smoked tomatoes, skinned and seeded, and finely chopped basil to taste and blend it all together with a fork. Use it on grilled bread or steak, baked potatoes, planked scallops or shrimp, or tossed with hot pasta or grilled vegetables.
Watch the BBQ Queens make Smoked Tomato and Basil Butter

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