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Okanagan College’s culinary students are making a significant splash in the world of Florida tomatoes.
At least that’s the take of the judges involved in the annual Top Tomato Recipe contest sponsored by the Florida Tomato Council.
Would-be chefs at OC captured first, second and third place honours in the 27th annual edition of the contest.
Annie Low, an international student from Britain studying Advanced Culinary Management at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, earned first place with her recipe for a Tomato Chili Jam recipe that incorporates fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers and fresh and dried chilies.
Second place went to student Morris Hsu, who developed a recipe for tomato iced tea. Hsu slow roasted tomatoes before they were strained and then infused them with mint, fennel leaves and ginger.
Third place belonged to Elizabeth Devereaux, who stacked a panko-crusted eggplant slice with tomato jam, mozzarella, a tomato slice, tomato mayonnaise and a fresh basil leaf.
“I was surprised to learn that I had won,” says Low. “I was even more surprised to learn that Okanagan College students had earned second and third place too.”
Low is interested in moving to Canada after she completes her studies.
The OC students were encouraged to enter the contest by their instructor, Chef Mike Barillaro.
“I’m impressed with the results, but not entirely surprised,” says Jonathan Rouse, Okanagan College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism. “We have a top-notch group of chef instructors and passionate students who appreciate fresh ingredients – and love developing recipes that reflect different ways of thinking about them.”
This isn’t the first time that Okanagan College has reached across the continent to impress the tomato aficionados of Florida. In 2009, another Okanagan College culinary student, David Colombe (who originally hailed from Chicago) captured top spot in the contest. Colombe went on to write a couple of cookbooks, served as executive chef at a number of well-known area restaurants and, of late, hangs his hat in Sorrento where he is associated with Left Fields Farm and is a strong proponent of the farm-to-table movement.
According to the Florida Tomato Council’s press release on the contest, judges award prizes based on flavour, originality, use of fresh Florida tomatoes and ease of preparation.
“The contest was designed to help educate students about proper handling of fresh field-grown tomatoes, which are a staple in the foodservice industry,” says the release. “It also allows culinary instructors to reinforce recipe development and writing skills.”
According to the Council, the Florida tomato industry produces virtually all the fresh-market, field-grown tomatoes in the U.S. from October through June each year - currently amounting to nearly 900 million pounds - and accounts for about 50 per cent of all U.S.-grown fresh tomatoes.
Here’s Low’s award-winning recipe for the Florida Tomato Chili Jam:
3 pounds of fully-ripened fresh Florida tomatoes cored and chopped
2 red peppers, cooked in oven until blistered and starting to turn black, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 small red chili, seeded and chopped fine
YIELD: Approximately 3 pints*
* Remainder can be stored in glass container.