14 September 2014

Savour Summer with a Caprese Burger with Pickled Tomatoes from Sunshine Farms

Caprese Burgers with Pickled Tomatoes
Walking through the farmers market this time of year, you can't help but realize that tomato season is still in full swing. Tomatoes are available all year round but it’s not until mid summer that they really come into their own. With the threat of frost in September the season is fleeting as we savour the last few days of summer and all the bounty it has to offer. The weather begs to differ with hot, sultry days and cool nights but things can turn on a dime.

What better way to celebrate my absolutely favourite fruit than with a Tomato Festival. When I mentioned to my worldly travellers where I was headed they had visions of La Tomatina in Spain . Although it is on my bucket list, this was a celebration of a different colour. And celebrate we did with an array of delicious and innovative little bites topped off with the piece de resistance freshly baked Margherita pizza from a wood fire oven for the first annual Tomato Festival at Sunshine Farm.

Pickled Tomatoes from Sunshine Farms (recipe from Sher below)
 When wandering the venue you  literally felt the excitement. Heirloom tomatoes begging to be savoured lined the beautifully decorated large wooden farm table. Perfectly plump workhorse Campbell's tomatoes, pints of adorable cherry tomatoes just begging to be snacked on, and of course, the queen bee of the pack, the knobby heirlooms, in every shape and size imaginable. some of them making their noble debut.  The rich tapestry of colours, the diversity and depth of flavour, and the general beauty of the tomatoes provided an experience that your average grocery tomato just cannot match. I wait all year for their arrival and a festival to celebrate their unimaginable flavour and beauty was right up our alley. My friend Dina of Olive Oil and Lemons and I welcomed the shade of an abundant fruit tree while we listened to the strains of cowboy music and relished each little bite with 48 new found friends.  Sparkling tomato water was a refreshing bonus to ward of the heat of a lazy summer day.

In recent years, heirloom tomatoes have caught the fancy of an increasing number of gardeners and local growers making them more widely available.  These are the tomatoes that people have fallen in love with, and have deemed worthy of keeping from plants that have been grown year after year and handed down from gardener to gardener. At the farm, owner Jon showed us how to collect the seeds from these prized tomatoes. Heirloom tomato seeds, like your grandmother’s china, are viewed as precious family treasures that have been passed from generation to generation. For an heirloom tomato to qualify for heirloom status it has to have been around for at least 50 years. Newer genetic variations are classified as hybrids.
Mark Pollan Tomato; Baby Red Pear; Oaxacan; Speckled Roman
Heirloom tomatoes have several advantages over hybrids. Most importantly they have outstanding flavour! They also come in a variety of colours, pink, yellow, orange, maroon, purple and may even be marbled or striped or have unusual shapes. Until the 20th century and the onset of hybrids tomato varieties were every shape but round. With names like Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Kellogg's Breakfast, San Marzano, Yellow Pear, Radiator and Charlie's Mortgage Lifter how can you resist!!!
Heirloom Tomato Salsa; Tomato Jam; Sparkling Tomato Water; an array of small bites

Caprese Tomato Sticks; Bernard Callebaut Coated Tomatoes; Tomato Spice Cake
 Nature blesses perfectly ripe summer tomatoes with their own ideal dressing. Rich olive oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper are practically all that’s needed to bring out the sunny flavour of summer tomatoes and complement the sweet-tart acidity of their natural juices. As with all tomatoes they should be kept at room temperature or they become mealy. I have a confession to make, since I am guilty of putting them in the fridge once in a while for no other reason than I often get carried away by their beauty. Heirloom tomatoes hold a special place in my heart.
Woodfire Oven Baked Marguerita Pizza
 Sunshine Farm is nestled in the hills of South East Kelowna on just a little over 12 acres. It has been owned and operated by Jon and Sher Alcock since 1987 when they decided to create a life on a sustainable farm for their family that also serves its community. They specialise in Certified Organic rare, heirloom, and open pollinated vegetables, herbs and some fruits all of which they provide to local restaurants and bring to the farmers market. To many they are not just farmers but they are family.  During this time the farm has branched into Certified Organic Seed Sales, including vegetables, herbs and over 150 varieties of tomatoes. I sigh as I know they have my beloved Padron pepper seeds and I have no garden. 
Farm Tour Sunshine Farms
Their passion and knowledge shone through as we took a tour of the property with Jon explaining some of the more unusual offerings and the history behind them. Not only is it a sustainable farm but is the setting for Vocational Development Opportunities for challenged adults in the community. The setting is diverse, offering a chance to learn about equipment operation, woodworking, plant identification, seed collection, harvesting, labelling, math skills, weighing, and packaging. 

So what to do with these gems? My favourite bounty of the summer. My go to recipe is inevitably a Caprese salad which is an Italian dish that shows up often in my kitchen. It is prepared with ripe tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, and usually balsamic vinegar. In true More Than Burnt Toast fashion the recipe below is my interpretation of a Caprese Burger using the classic elements of the salad, but with a twist.

For a twist on the traditional Caprese ingredients, this burger is made with pickled tomatoes, something new on my radar found on restaurant menus and in home kitchens and introduced to me at the farm. Below you will find a recipe from Sher of Sunshine Farms for pickled tomatoes which made a tasty addition to these simple burgers. Make sure the tomatoes are firm; otherwise, they will fall apart when pickled. With the addition of a one-minute basil mayonnaise, some freshly plucked local greens and some slightly warmed buffalo mozzarella these burgers will have you savouring every last moment of the last days of summer. Catch those tomatoes while you can!

**Caprese Burger with Pickled Tomatoes and Basil Mayonnaise**

1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin beef
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3-5 tablespoons water
salt and pepper, olive oil
16 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese
6-7 pickled tomatoes (recipe below)
4 ciabatta rolls
Basil One Minute Mayonnaise (recipe below)
Lettuce for garnish

In a medium bowl lightly knead the sirloin with water and balsamic vinegar. Loosely shape into 4 patties about 3/4-inch thick. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate lined with plastic wrap. Make a small indentation in the centre of each patty with your thumb to ensure even cooking because the burger swells during the cooking process. Brush the sides of the buns with olive oil.

Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, cook the hamburger for about 3-6 minutes per side, depending on your taste. Top with a few slices of the buffalo mozzarella during the last few minutes of cooking to melt the cheese slightly.

Cut the ciabatta rolls in half and coat each side with the basil mayonnaise (recipe below). Place the patties on the rolls and top with the pickled tomatoes and lettuce. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Pickled Tomatoes
from Sher at Sunshine Farms

Enough tomatoes to fill about 4 sterilised pint jars. (Use small crisp tomatoes.The 'grape' varieties are perfect. Wash them and remove the stems, but do not peel them. Poke about four holes in each one. I ran a skewer all the way through 2 or 3 times).
1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4-8 garlic cloves
Pinch of coriander
4-6 peppercorns

Boil all ingredients together (except tomatoes) for 3 or 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature.Very important to let it cool.  If it is too hot when you add it to the tomatoes, they will start to peel, and be mushy.

Pour the cooled brine onto the tomatoes, and screw on the lid.

These are fresh pickles which do not need any cooking or processing. Give them at least 24 hours to soak up the brine. The recipe says they will last several months. Mine will be eaten long before that!

Really easy,  and very easy to make larger batches.

Basil One Minute Mayonnaise

1 large egg (room temperature)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
5 large basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil or another 1/2 cup of canola

In a one-quart, wide-mouth mason jar (or any other tall jar with a wide opening), place the mayonnaise ingredients in the order listed. Set the speed to high (I use the purée setting), place the immersion blender over the egg, and push the ON button. When you start to see streaks of mayonnaise in the bottom of the jar, slowly start moving the blender upwards, until all of the ingredients have turned to mayonnaise. (This will take less than 1 minute.) Put the cap on the jar, and refrigerate until ready to use.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Val - that burger looks fantastic! I would like one for lunch please. I'm intrigued by the chocolate dipped tomatoes but also by the pickled tomatoes. I'm definitely going to make a batch. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. What a beautiful post!
    I want to make these pickled tomatoes now!
    And the mayo..

    Thank you!

  3. What a beautiful burger and beautiful post! That tomato stack is crazy!!


  4. That was a fun afternoon Val. I am trying to go through all the tomatoes I have now, every type, size and colour. Just beautiful.

  5. Beautiful burgers and flavours! The pickled tomatoes sound really interesting.



  6. Wow! This post is a bounty of tomatoes! (Love the photo of them stacked up!) Your burger looks delish, Val.
    My favorite tomato dish has always been an old fashioned tomato sandwich...just some lovely fresh tomatoes, some mayo and always on some homemade bread. My grandmother used to keep us stocked with homemade bread. Now I buy it at a bakery. :)

  7. Great burger, post and the tomatoes sound yummy

  8. What a fun festival! I love the towering tomato stack and those pickled tomatoes are going on my list of things to try if my cherry tomato plants give me one last harvest!

  9. I have tomatoes overflowing my counters and you post make me want even more of them. Mostly so I can make a 6 ft tall tomato tower. GREG

  10. Another great foodie event! I love adding something pickled to a burger (or sandwich). Usually, I’ll do onions but now must try pickling tomatoes.

  11. Lucky you to attend a tomato event. Tomatoes have to be my all time favorite food and the list of heirloom tomatoes keeps growing, which makes me happy.Great looking burger, so colorful and full of flavor.

  12. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE tomatoes. The festival sounds fantastic! I am loving the caprese burger. YUM.

  13. Oh Val I want to savor summer all winter long.
    Can we make that possible?
    I was just having such a nice summer and poof fall, cold air arrives.
    So not ready!

  14. on my burgers, i like pickles and i like tomatoes. combining the two is an amazing idea!


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