Chef Martinez’s Tips From the Farmers Market: Finding the Perfect Tomatoes

August 10, 2015

Tomato season is in full swing here in the midwest, and Chef Aaron Martinez couldn’t be happier. With a menu that showcases clean and natural flavors, Chef Martinez is reaping the benefits of the summertime, when Chicago's farmers markets are offering the freshest produce in its prime season.

"It’s all about getting to know where your food comes from and asking questions. It's going around eating and trying stuff at the farmers market... When we see something beautiful, we’re going to try to get it on the menu as soon as possible.”- Chef Aaron Martinez.
Here are some of Chef Martinez's tips for buying the perfect tomatoes at the farmers market: 1. Know What To Look For Choose tomatoes that have rich colors... rich reds, vibrant tangerines, bright yellows, and deep purples. Look for softer, riper tomatoes when you are using them for sauces. For salads and just snacking, choose tomatoes that are more deeply colored and firm with a little give so that there will be a nice snap when you bite into the skin. Check the tomatoes for wrinkles, cracks, or bruises as they are a sign of age. Trust the scent: if they’re missing that sweet, woody smell, it might be better to continue your search elsewhere. 2. Pick Your Type There are so many types of tomatoes that it is important to pick the specific variety that best suits your recipe. Beefsteaks have a high water content and are better eaten raw in salads or sandwiches. Romas (plum tomatoes), tangy and thin-skinned with few seeds are great for making sauces. Heirlooms generally taste the most "tomato-like" of all varieties. All heirlooms must be bred with open-air pollination and cannot contain any genetically modified organisms. Selecting the right tomato variety will help you create a beautiful dish. 3. Ask for a Sample One of the best parts about going to the farmers market is the sampling. Always ask for a sample from the farmer or vendor first and if they give you the green light, definitely give it a taste before making your purchase. "Looks can be deceiving", Chef Martinez notes; sampling is the best way to gauge how sweet or tart each variety is and that is key to ensuring that you’re buying the tomatoes that best suit your cooking needs. Currently on the Intro menu Chef Martinez presents a Tomato and Summer Melon Salad. This course is made with local raw tomatoes served with watermelon compressed with tomato dashi, prosciutto (from the Hammery in Tennessee), tomato water infused with kombu, sherry vinegar, shiitake, white soy and bonito flakes accompanied by onion soubise and sliced pickled pearl onions, finished with coriander blossom, radish blossom and cilantro oil. The prosciutto and dashi components of the dish offers a wonderful umami sensation while ingredients like the raw tomatoes, tomato water and white soy provides a cleaner taste. The technique used to make tomato water results in a crystal clear water with impressive flavor and aromas of fresh tomatoes. tomatoes The closer a restaurant is to the producer, the fresher the produce. This summer at Intro Chef Martinez is taking advantage the Chicago farmers markets to provide our guests the freshest produce this season has to offer.