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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Stu Stein talks about sustainable cuisine

The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests and Oceans
By Stu Stein





This recipe is from The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Farms, Forests and Oceans, by Stu Stein with co-authors Mary Hinds (who is Stein's wife) and Judith H. Dern. "This fruit salad (remember tomatoes are a fruit) showcases what we think summer is all about: intense flavor, colorful ingredients and playful flavor combinations," the authors write. "The resulting tastes are refreshing and complex without being pretentious or difficult to make. Find as many different heirloom tomatoes as possible. The range of flavors and textures will surprise you."

Heirloom Tomato Salad with 
Grilled Red Torpedo Onions and Pesto Vinaigrette

2 red Torpedo onions, peeled, cut into half moons and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound various heirloom tomatoes (approximately 4 to 6 tomatoes)
kosher salt or course sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pesto vinaigrette
basil leaves for garnish

Pesto Vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic, peeled
kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
2 cups fresh basil leaves, stems removed
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat a grill.

2. Toss the onions in a bowl with the oil and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Remove the cores from the tomatoes and cut them in various shapes and sizes (wedges, round slices, half-moons, etc.) and reserve. 

4. Place onions on the grill over medium heat and grill until the onions are tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes.

5. To make vinaigrette, in the bowl of a food processor, purée garlic and salt until a paste is formed. Add pine nuts and basil and process until a fine paste formed. With motor running, add vinegar and then slowly add oil in a thin stream until the mixture is emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning.

6. Arrange the tomatoes on the plates. Season with salt and pepper. Place several slices of grilled onions on top of the tomatoes and drizzle with pesto vinaigrette. Arrange several basil leaves on and around tomatoes and sprinkle with additional cracked black pepper.


The onions can be grilled ahead of time and refrigerated. Bring them to room temperature before adding to the salad. Don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator as this can make them grainy and mealy and they lose flavor. As with most produce, buy only what you need. Keep them on the counter between 55°F and 70°F.

We prefer Tropea Red Torpedo onions because they are mild with a burst of onion flavor. Tropea is a town in the province of Calabria in Italy facing out onto the Tyrrenian Sea and is famous for its pungent, football-shaped, red onion. Any medium-sized red onion can be substituted for the red torpedo onions.

Other herbs can easily be substituted for the basil in the pesto vinaigrette. A good rule to follow is to use half parsley leaves and half other herbs otherwise the pesto will overpower the delicate sweetness of the tomatoes.

Copyright 2005 Seasonal Chef