Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tomato Leaf-Egg Pasta

For a thorough look at food history in the South from the mid-twentieth century on, I highly recommend The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge of which I received a review copy. All angles are covered from the atrocities of segregation and the civil rights movement as they related to restaurant dining to home cooking including how the food being prepared and access to it have changed over time. There’s a moving passage about Edna Lewis and how her family had “embraced agriculture.” “They found joy among the furrows and reveled in the pleasures of the table… In a rapidly urbanizing America, her knowledge of native plants and heritage breed animals, learned on the family farm, set her apart.” Alice Waters regarded Lewis as “an advocate of organic foods and seasonal diets.” Lewis, in fact, spoke of the same principles on which the Slow Food movement would later be founded. The book offers insights into the careers of several famous Southern chefs, food writers, restaurant founders, and producers and also delves into issues of industrial farming and the need for progress for laborers. And, it clearly depicts how a changing population “proved essential in the making of the newest New South, in which expertise in tortilla making mattered as much as biscuit baking, and Indian chefs set the standard for fried okra.” Sadly, that doesn’t mean all problems have been solved, but it is exciting to see the food landscape shift and new dishes become iconic. Edge writes: “Food serves the region as a unifying symbol of the creolized culture we have forged, making explicit connections between the breads made from corn that Native Americans call pone and the breads made from corn that Mexican Americans call tortillas, bonding Louisiana Cajuns of French descent who boil crawfish in water spiked with Tabasco mash and Vietnamese Texans on the Gulf Coast who boil crawfish in pots that bob with lemongrass.” It’s fascinating to experience the varied ways food products of the South can be interpreted. Here in Austin, I look to our local farms for inspiration based on what’s growing from month to month. A few weeks ago as the height of tomato season was coming to an end, I wanted to make use of the less popular part of the plants. The Tomato Leaf-Egg Pasta from The Book of Greens was on my mind, and I had to give it a try.

Springdale Farm was kind enough to harvest a bag full of tomato leaves for me to purchase, and a local restaurant had been purchasing them as well. It’s great to know the plants were being put to such good use. To make the pasta dough, the tomato leaves were blanched, drained, and squeezed in a towel to remove moisture. Next, the leaves were placed in the blender with eggs and pureed. I prefer to make pasta by hand, so I transferred the tomato leaf and egg mixture to a big bowl with some flour. I used a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. The flour and tomato leaf mixture were stirred together and kneaded on a floured surface until smooth. The dough was covered with plastic wrap and allowed to rest for about an hour before being divided and rolled through a pasta machine. I cut the strands into linguine and cooked them briefly in salted boiling water. For a quick sauce, I followed the suggestion in the book and melted butter in which fresh tomatoes were briefly warmed. Pasta was topped with the sauce, strands of basil, and some parmigiano reggiano. I loved the herby flavor in the rich egg pasta, and the speckled green color was pretty with the fresh tomatoes. I'll definitely make this again when I can get some leaves from tomato plants.

A lot of progress has been made in the South, and I hope it continues. Undeniably, there are still issues to be addressed and problems to be solved, and only time will tell what changes will come next. But, seeing the mix of cultures and its positive affect on what we eat is a positive sign. I’ll keep eating all the new and different dishes that appear and cooking with all the great ingredients grown in this little pocket of the South that I call home. 

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  1. Thought tomato leaves were poisonous...the pasta looks beautiful.

  2. A beautiful dish! Me too, I always though that they were poisonous...



  3. It was previously thought the leaves were poisonous, but they are not! I've also used them to make pesto.

    1. remember this pesto recipe... I meant to try it, never did. Love your pasta, it looks absolutely gorgeous!

  4. I first read about using tomato leaves in Paul Bertolli's _Cooking by Hand_. (That's a great book -- worth looking up if you don't know it.) As I recall he used them in some tomato sauces, though, not in pasta itself -- neat idea! Fun read -- thanks.

  5. i'm so fascinated by this! in my experience, tomato leaves leave a nasty smell on my hands and i didn't even consider that you could eat them! what an interesting pasta!

  6. Such an interesting pasta flavor! I stink at growing tomatoes, but I can grow tomato leaves :) Both the pasta and book sound wonderful!


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