The Story of My “Creative” Life (A Tomato Contest)

posted in: Cooking, Experience, Seattle-ing, Sweet | 54

holy tomato blt

I submitted an entry into the Queen Anne Farmers Market Holy Tomato! Contest last week. The objective: showcase the glory of the tomato. The parameters? None. What would you do? What do you think I did? Apparently I’m predictable as all get out, in more ways than one, since everyone who saw my dish (who knows me or my blog) took one look at it and knew I created it. I guess that means I have a niche, but sometimes it’s a little frustrating to be pigeonholed, especially if it’s the same hole you’ve been pigeoning around in more or less your entire life. I’ve always been, how do I say this properly, fringe-y. The first award I ever won was “most shocking pumpkin” at a pumkin-carving school contest when I was seven. Apparently sticking two meat cleavers on either side of the jack-o-lantern face was shock-inducing. Imagine a kid bringing that pumpkin to school in this day and age- seems crazy now that they let me get away with it.

blt aerial

The next award came along in junior high (this is not counting all the statewide spelling bee’s I so nerdily won, mind you) when I was voted “snazziest dresser.” WTF did snazzy mean in the 1990’s, people? I’m sure it was for the time I made a pair of bellbottoms out of upholstery fabric I found at the Goodwill and then tied 20 bells around the cuffs of each leg. I got sent home because my outfit was “disruptive.” Then in high school I was voted “most likely to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.” I have no idea where that one came from considering I haven’t played an instrument since the cello in sixth grade, and even though I KNOW I can sing, I’ve been assured by everyone else who’s heard me that I can’t carry a tune nearly as well as I can carry a glass of vino to my lips repeatedly, which is apparently my true Olympic talent. It was around that time I realized my calling was Halloween costume contests. I’ve never met a Halloween contest I couldn’t win, and enjoyed much success in that realm, due, in large part, to the fact that I’ve never dolled myself up like a “ho” and blasphemed the holiday by using it as an excuse to look cheap and tawdry. Not that I haven’t gone nearly nude, it’s just usually in more of an intellectual, complicated sort of way, and there tends to be fire shooting out my nipples or something equally as startling.

All this is to illustrate the fact that I’ve been eternally shoved into the odd box and I can’t seem to get out, no matter how hard I try to do something that might compel the masses. I’m really not counterculture- I have friends who drive Range Rovers, live in Beverly Hills and Bellevue, have fake boobs and get botox injections. I’m sure I know a Republican or two, even. I guess I just have a place in life and I might as well make myself comfortable and kick up my heels. Which is why I should have known my tomato entry would win “most creative” before I ever thought up what I was going to make. I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining- I am thrilled to add a notch to my bedazzled, Gaga-fied, chartreuse, shiny dragonskin belt. I just sometimes wish the ideas that come into my head as perfectly normal things to do wouldn’t be met with comments like “that’s so original” or “how on earth did you ever think of that?” I don’t try to be “creative” “original” or “complex,” especially on the plate. I just try to combine classic flavors in ways that seem delicious to me.

classic sandwich blt

Once again, I deconstructed the classic BLT sandwich and presented it in frozen format. I did this last fall and I was not 100% thrilled with the outcome, so I went back to the drawing board, changed the “bread” to a maple-pecan Pizzelle, tweaked the bacon ice cream (by adding lots of bourbon), substituted pea shoots instead of lettuce in the sorbet, and finally messed around with egginess and creaminess in the tomato gelato. I garnished the plate with a candied heirloom grape tomato sitting on top of a pea shoot and piece of homemade bacon. It was pretty. It was classic. It was delicious (if you don’t mind me saying so). But I guess it was also “creative.” I’m just one big self-fulfilling prophecy so I better get used to it. The thing is, who wants to eat “creative?” Wouldn’t you rather eat “fan-fucking-tastic?” It’s kind of like the adjective I use when someone asks my opinion on something and I don’t want to insult them- “that’s interesting.” Or something you’d say to a five-year-old who just made you an indiscernible fingerpainting. “Very creative, little Suzie.”

awaiting judgement at the contest
photo courtesy of Queen Anne Farmers Market

That being said, I was thrilled to have won the award, and the ultimate accolade came when the lone chef at the judges’ table took out his iPhone and snapped a few shots of my dish. I don’t know what he was thinking, exactly, but whatever it was must have been inspiring enough to want to remember, so that made me very happy. All three judges popped the candied tomatoes like crack, and luckily I had brought an extra plate of them so was able to share some candied tomatoes with the crowd. They are so easy, and make great additions to other canapés and appetizers. For example you can candy a tomato and set it on a basil leaf perched on a round of mozzarella, or if you’re feeling really decadent top a cracker with a candied tomato and a slice of seared foie gras. I will leave you with the candied tomato recipe, though if you’re really interested in one of the frozen component flavors, let me know and I’ll email you that as well.

candied tomato

Candied Tomatoes

Note: increase the sugar and water as necessary if you have more tomatoes, or if your pan is not a very small saucepan, as you want enough depth to the candy syrup to be able to easily dip your tomatoes and coat them.

  • 1.5 c granulated sugar
  • ½ c water
  • 24 grape tomatoes with stems intact, washed, and thoroughly dried
  1. Boil the sugar and water in a small saucepan stirring constantly until the syrup reaches 330° as measured by a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. Working quickly, use tongs to dip the tomatoes into the syrup by their stems. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to harden. If you want to affix them to the surface on which they will eventually set, do so within fifteen minutes so they retain some tackiness, but not right away, as they’ll be too hot.
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54 Responses

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  8. When these contests start asking for an essay or at least a written description submitted with the dish, you will take the cake. Delicious writing. I don’t understand the dish but I would have voted for it.

  9. Amazing. Creative!!! Good job!

  10. Wow. Foodbuzz brought me here today. I don’t usually click on anything they send me, but this combines two of my favorite things (those being BLTs and ice cream) so I had to. I would definitely call this “interesting” or “creative,” but I’d do so with a wide-eyed look of wonder at how you manage to think up such awesome things and then actually put them together instead of letting them fester in the recesses of your mind until you either give up, or look for a recipe to see if someone else has already done it and THEN give up once you don’t find one because you’re not brave enough to try to make something up completely. Well, something that actually has science behind it.

    Is it too late to solicit recipes for the ice cream blt? I just got an ice cream maker, and I’m excited to get an idea of how frozen things work so I can start trying to be creative with it–these look like the perfect things to try out. If you see this, I’d love it if you could email them to me! My email address is edanacooks@gmail.com. Thank you so much! You’re an inspiration.

  11. Ow-ie wow-ie. This looks just amazing. I’d love the full recipe of the iBLT 2.0 !

  12. Hi I loved what the pictures show. Would it be possible for you to tell me thow you made BLT sandwich and presented it in frozen format. Please it would be helpful

  13. I loved the candied tomatoes at your house. I am not supposed to have sugar but didn’t KNOW they were candied until I popped ‘em in my mouth. Ahhhhh. Decadence!

    And MY GOD, Linda. You blow my mind with every post. This? Is genius. Truly. I’m contemplating making avocado ice cream today (w/sugar substitute). Maybe I should make tomato sorbet with it and call it guacamole? HAH!

    I adore you. You’re one of the cleverest people I know. xo

  14. New to your blog, but love you innovation and creativity!

  15. This is beautiful ice cream, thank you so much for sharing it.

  16. So when I first entered your blog and saw these pictures, I said to myself, “wow, that is really pretty.” But then the curiosity kicked in. I tried to figure it out and had no idea. Then I actually read your blog. That is one of the neatest (and strangest) food I’ve seen in a while. Good Job!

  17. bacon & bourbon, yes. absolutely yes.

  18. This is stunning! And I’m wishing I had some candied tomatoes right now! Brilliant Linda!

  19. Julie W

    What a fun post. You are an amazing talent (in addition to being beautiful, damn you). Thanks for blowing our socks off with your dish, which was as tasty as it was gorgeous. If the contest ambience had been elegant instead of earthy, you would have swept UP.

  20. I can’t figure out whether you had me first at ice cream..or bacon. I don’t dare show this to Alan or this script will never get done. Congrats on the much deserved award!

  21. @Sprinkled with Flour
    I know- where on earth did that word come from, right?

  22. @chelle
    I’d serve it as a dessert, but I guess it could depend on what mood you were in:)

  23. This is gorgous! So nice. Also nice to see another Seattle blogger :)

  24. Oh Linda, how creative! (smirk)

    When you do something well and consistently enough to be pigeon-holed, I guess it means that you have a well-defined style. And you, my dear, do. If you ever want to practice ‘rustic,’ let me know and I’ll show you a thing or ten.

  25. You have out done yourself yet again. I want to live inside your brain to see how those creative juices flow. ;-)

  26. Your post made me laugh out loud:) My mom still uses the word “snazzy”, and it cracks me up every time. This dish is so beautiful and unique. I love it!

  27. Amazing photos. Congrats on the top 9 :)

  28. This is an amazing recipe and amazing pictures!

  29. oh wow that looks incredible! such beautiful photography

  30. unbelievable…congrats because this top 9 takes the prize home!

  31. We share an Olympic sport. We should train together.

  32. Lovely dish. Spot on with the addition of the candied tomatoes. Bravo!

  33. Amazing presentation, what a difference from your last try.

  34. oooo i must say that’s a really ingenius idea. now, so is that served for main or dessert? ;)

  35. YOu are awesome and I love that you are ODD.

  36. Having strangers take pictures of your food is the greatest validation :) This looks wonderful! Congrats!

  37. Congrats on your award, although I think the Chef taking the photos was the real award ;) Candied tomatoes? Genius!

  38. Congrats on your much deserved award, although I think the Chef taking photos is the real award ;) Sugar and tomatoes? Sounds like heaven to me.

  39. RavieNomNoms

    This is just the prettiest dish I have ever seen!!

  40. I can picture you on the cover of Rolling Stone holding this dish! Thanks for the candied tomato recipe. Thanks for your inspirational out of the box posts. I look forward to reading them all the time!

  41. This is off the chain! To serve your creation as an amuse bouche would shock, surprise and delight. Don’t fight against being “pigeon holed” as creative. If your flavors are spot on then creative is where every chef aspires, dreams, agonizes to be. The trick with exceptionally creative dishes is to follow Thomas Kellar’s lead (I know you love his work) by giving them just enough to blow them away and keep them wanting more without giving them too much of a good thing. Great post!

  42. Quite your bitchin’ It’s fan-f#%*&-tastic and we expect nothing less from you ;)
    I think you should post the Halloween “costume” so we can see how your creativity is expressed areas other than culinary!

  43. Quite your bitchin’ It’s fan-f#%*&-tastic and we expect nothing else from you ;)
    I think you should post the Halloween “costume” so we can see how your creativity is expressed areas other than culinary!

  44. I was cracking up reading this post. I feel like i know you so much better now.

    And i couldn’t agree more, i have so much more respect for chefs who are trying to combine classic flavors in ways that seem delicious rather than those who try to shock people at all cost. Kuddos to you for being your own creative self!

  45. I might call this interesting too…but it would be more of an INTERESTING BUT VERY COOL sort of interesting.

    But that was a might and what it really is…Amazing. Talk about creative; this is out of the box. And if that’s why people know your creations…it’s really all good. Doesn’t mean anything expected, they must know that you will shine for the most daring or unique and that’s anything but ‘expected.’

  46. @Andrea
    ok, if you’re really ready for it, i’ll dig up a Halloween picture :)

  47. Creative indeed! Congrats on your win.

    Thanks for another idea for my cherry tomato bounty. Would never have thought of preparing them this way but it’s so easy!

  48. Pictures of fire shooting out of your nipples is needed in this post, STAT!

  49. Love this history of your creative evolution Linda. And that looks bloody amazing, if I do say so myself!

  50. i am making candied tomatoes immediately…so creative, and i can definitely stomach anything that’s candied :)

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