I've grown slightly infatuated with the locally grown cherry tomatoes at Vic's Fruit Market. These little spheres of wonder add an explosively sweet and acidic element to almost any dish, giving you a punch of flavour that just screams summer.
I buy mine at Vic's because truly, you can't beat them for freshness, as they are brought in from one of their two Winnipeg-based greenhouses daily.
Scott Schriemer with some of his produce. (Mike Green)
"The biggest difference that we have is we pick the fruit ripe, which is better for any kind of fruit," said Vic's Fruit Market owner Scott Schriemer.
"As opposed to picking it half-green, packaging it, putting it in cooling facilities, transporting it across the country and then having a shelf life that lasts longer - you sacrifice taste."
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all about the lower ecological footprint you can get from local outdoor growing, but Scott and his brother Harry Schriemer have embraced all the technologies they can to mitigate the carbon footprint at their greenhouses - from heating with natural gas, to using curtain systems to retain the heat their lights produce, to using boilers that are 95 per cent efficient.
And there is something to be said about the consistency that the Schriemer brothers are able to maintain with their tomatoes. Plus, these guys are dealing with quite a bit of volume.
"I sell a fair amount for a small place, but by no means like a big store," said Scott. "I'd say maybe in the span of a week I may sell four or five hundred pounds. But I only grow for myself, I don't grow for anyone else, I only grow for my own needs; I kind of have a captive market for that particular product."
With that kind of volume they've indeed developed a loyal clientèle - and as an added bonus with their greenhouses the brothers can grow these beauties for nine months of the year.
I've used them in the recipe below in a braised Swiss chard dish, where the cherry tomatoes provide an explosive flavour-burst of sweet acidity. It's a fairly simple dish to do, where bitter leaves of chard are matched up with these sweet tomatoes while the whole dish is supported by Vic's own new potatoes.
The potatoes themselves add body to the dish, and they are quite unique as far as potatoes go, with their flaky skin and concentrated flavour. Harry grows the potatoes on his outdoor farm, with fresh supplies of them coming into Vic's daily in the summer months.
"If you harvest your potatoes when they are small and young, and you wash them rather aggressively, then that light skin will come off," said Scott. "And that's the real attraction of these potatoes, they're fresh tasting, they're new, the flavours are intense, and they don't have a long shelf life - that's why we dig them every day - but the flavour is second to none."
It's a simple, delicious and vibrant summer side dish where you cook each element separately, then put them together at the end like you would a ratatouille.
Braised Swiss chard with crispy baby potatoes and caramelized cherry tomatoes
Prep time: 5 min
Cooking time 15 min
Can be used as a side dish for 2-4 people
Cherry tomatoes from Vic's Fruit Market. (Mike Green)
1 bunch Swiss chard or beet tops (pulled from stem and diced into ribbons)
8 cherry tomatoes (cut in half width-wise)
10 baby potatoes (cut in half width-wise)
4 basil leaves
1 clove garlic (sliced into thin chips, width-wise)
A splash of cream (about 30 mL)
Olive oil and butter for the pans
Take the baby potatoes and steam them for about 7 minutes, or until you can put a knife into one with little force, then place aside on a plate.
Preheat two pans on medium heat with a splash of olive oil and butter (they are ready once the butter starts to froth).
In first pan add the chard and move around to get a quick sauté. When the leaves start to wilt a touch, pour in your splash of cream (you don't need much as the chard will release its own liquids that they will cook in), turn down to low heat, and cover with a tight fitting lid.
In second pan, add the steamed potatoes - cut side down - and let them sit until their bottoms start to brown and get crispy. Flip potatoes over and get some nice browning on the rounded side. Once relatively crisp, take out of pan and keep to the side.
In pan that potatoes were cooked in (which will still be cracking hot) add the cherry tomatoes - cut side down - and add a splash more olive oil. Let tomatoes sit for about two minutes, until the flat bottoms start to caramelize, then shake pan to flip them to their rounded side.
Add garlic and sauté for about two more minutes until the tomato skins begin to wrinkle. (Do not overcook them! You want the tomato skins still intact so they explode later when you bite into them).
Take lid off chard (which will now have cooked down to a dark green, while the cream will have reduced with the chard liquid creating a lovely pink sauce), and add the potatoes and cherry tomatoes to the pan. Toss the ingredients around together and season with salt and pepper.
Serve as a side dish or put mixture into a shallow bowl and serve family style. The explosive, sweet tomatoes will cut through the chard while the potatoes give the dish a bit of body.