Today, we are savoring one of the most popular summer ingredients — the heirloom tomato — in three beautifully simple and delicious recipes. Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen, learned to cook in Buenos Aires and honed her culinary skills in San Sebastian, Spain. The Birmingham native has worked under some of the best chefs in the world, yet she finds her greatest inspiration in the Malaysian dish the grandmother is stirring in her pot or the Moroccan street food the locals line up for. “If there is one thing I have learned in my travels, it is that simple is good,” says Ashley. “Great food doesn’t have to be complicated.” This well-traveled chef and heirloom tomato lover shares three recipes that bring out the gorgeously complex flavors of summer’s favorite savory fruit. Take it away, Ashley!

Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen

Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen

If you’re from Alabama, you know a good tomato when you taste one. In fact, you might even know a good tomato simply by sight. There is nothing quite like that first bite of a ripe, juicy tomato made plump under the Alabama sun. People are known to make the rounds at Birmingham’s finest restaurants, sampling the variations of each eatery’s summer tomato salads, and die-hard tomato fans bite straight into them like an apple with a salt shaker in the other fist for sprinklings between bites. Cooks quiz each other on the different names of the heirloom varietals arriving from local farmers.

When heirloom tomatoes make their annual debut at the farmers market, it is a day of celebration. Shoppers eagerly fill their baskets, selecting from Cherokee Purples, Green Zebras, Black Krims, Black Russians, Brandywines, Mortgage Lifters and Roman Candles. Packed with vitamins A, C and K, as well as B6, tomatoes are not only delicious but also a good source of potassium, magnesium and copper. This well-known superfood is known to help fight cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes while promoting skin and eye health. So, you can feel good about chowing down on these mouthwatering ‘maters!

This summer, cook your way through tomato season using unique recipes, treating your family and friends while exploring the varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Here are three amazing heirloom tomato recipes to get you started.

3 Heirloom Tomato Recipes

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic and Thyme

While this dish may seem deceptively simple, the slow baking of the tomatoes releases an incredible sweetness. The tomatoes literally burst in your mouth! They are delicious on their own as a side dish but try adding them to sandwiches, pasta, rice and salads for an unforgettable pop of flavor.

These roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic and thyme are almost too pretty to eat!

These roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic and thyme are almost too pretty to eat!

Eat these as a tasty side dish or add them to sandwiches, pasta, rice and salads for added flavor.

Eat these as a tasty side dish or add them to sandwiches, pasta, rice and salads for added flavor.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic and Thyme

Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen
The slow baking of the tomatoes releases an incredible sweetness. Try these as a side dish or on a sandwich.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pints of heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • While the oven is preheating, peel the garlic cloves.
  • In a large baking dish, add the cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
  • While the tomatoes are baking, remove the thyme leaves from their stems.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

Tip: Do not halve the cherry tomatoes. Leaving them whole will preserve the juices.
Tip: Don’t want to peel garlic? Find a garlic infused olive oil that you love. Or, if you like a spicy kick, try a spicy chile-infused olive oil!
Tried this recipe?Rate it above to let us know how it was!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Herbed Orzo Salad

The Mediterranean flavors of this fabulously healthy dish are just light and filling enough for the Alabama heat. This crowd-pleasing dish embraces the flavors of summer and is usually a hit as a side dish or an appetizer at pool parties and patio gatherings, alike.

The feta in this herbed orzo salad adds a nice touch of saltiness to the sweet summer tomatoes!

The feta in this herbed orzo salad adds a nice touch of saltiness to the sweet summer tomatoes!

Finish each orzo salad-topped tomato with an alternating colored cherry tomato for a truly eye-catching dish!

Finish each orzo salad-topped tomato with an alternating colored cherry tomato for a truly eye-catching dish!

Heirloom Tomatoes with Herbed Orzo Salad

Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen
This crowd-pleasing dish with Mediterranean flavors embraces the flavors of summer!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces ½ standard box orzo pasta
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 6 ounces block feta crumbled
  • 1 ounce package of fresh mint
  • 1 ounce package of fresh dill
  • 1 ounce package of fresh basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, bring water and salt to a rapid boil. Add orzo and stir well.
  • While orzo is cooking, drizzle a sheet pan with olive oil.
  • After 9 minutes, drain the orzo using a fine mesh strainer. Spread the orzo evenly over the sheet pan to cool.
  • Once cool, transfer orzo to a large bowl and add the feta, mint, dill, basil and red pepper flakes. Mix and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Thickly slice each tomato into thirds.
  • Top with orzo salad and enjoy!

Notes

Tip: Use a wooden spoon to prevent damaging the orzo. Metal spoons can cut the grain. This tip applies to risotto as well.
Tip: Buy block feta as it is often better quality. Crumbled feta can be of lower quality. The best fetas are barrel aged. The barrel lends flavor to the feta as barrels do to wine.
Tip: For added flavor, try a honey balsamic-infused olive oil.
Tried this recipe?Rate it above to let us know how it was!

RELATED: 3 Fresh, Creative Salad Recipes from Local Chefs

Pan Con Tomate

Pan con Tomate is a Spanish-style toast topped with tomato. My business, Copper Pot Kitchen, actually came about as a result of making Pan con Tomate so many times while cooking in Spain. I was so tired of rubbing garlic cloves on bread that I decided to make an extra virgin olive oil infused with roasted garlic. So, if you’d like to use my shortcut, grab a bottle of roasted garlic-infused olive oil in place of brushing with plain olive oil and rubbing with garlic cloves.

Manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain and aged from 60 days to two years, takes this dish to the next level. The savory, creamy notes of the Manchego complement the salty Serrano ham and the fruity sweetness of the bright heirloom tomatoes for a bruschetta-style appetizer that will keep you coming back for more!

Cheese lovers' tip: If you like the Manchego, try Idiazabal made in the Basque region of northern Spain — Yum!

Cheese lovers’ tip: If you like the Manchego, try Idiazabal made in the Basque region of northern Spain — Yum!

Pan con Tomate

Ashley Tarver, chef and owner of Copper Pot Kitchen
The savory, creamy notes of the Manchego complement the salty Serrano ham and the fruity sweetness of the bright heirloom tomatoes for a bruschetta-style appetizer that will keep you coming back for more!
3 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 wide baguette
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes
  • ¼ pound wedge of Manchego grated
  • 3 ounces Serrano ham
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • fresh black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Slice baguette at an angle into 8 thick slices.
  • Using a grill brush, brush each baguette with olive oil. Lightly toast in oven for 5 minutes.
  • Peel and halve garlic cloves. Rub half a clove over each slice of bread, so bread soaks up the essence of the garlic. Discard cloves.
  • Slice tomatoes then halve each slice. Place two halves on each slice of bread.
  • Liberally sprinkle the Manchego over the tomato slices.
  • Divide Serrano ham into 8 portions and top each piece of baguette.
  • Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Notes

Tip: Silicone grill brushes are wonderful. Not only do they withstand the heat, they are easy to clean and don’t leave bristles behind!
Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to peel cheese for fun, thin strips. Start peeling on the side of the wedge. The best vegetable peeler on earth is made by Kuhn Rikon. A set of three costs less than $10 on Amazon
Tried this recipe?Rate it above to let us know how it was!

So, pull up our Ultimate Guide to Birmingham Farmers Markets, find the beautiful heirloom nearest you and whip up one of these tasty summer recipes!

Thank you to Ashley Tarver for these fabulous recipes and tips! To learn more about Ashley and her infused olive oils, visit Copper Pot Kitchen.

Thank you to Sarah Finnegan for the gorgeous images of Ashley’s recipes.

And lastly, thank you to Sandlin Farm from Holly Pond, Alabama, for providing the mouthwateringly beautiful tomatoes that appeared in today’s recipes! Find them at the Market at Pepper Place on Saturday mornings!

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