You know the type. I think every neighborhood has one (at least every neighborhood in NY does and I'd wager they have them in NJ too). He's a short dude, retired from his day job, has an Italian accent, works tirelessly in his garden - no matter how small - until the day he dies. He hangs with his goombas at a particular spot in the neighborhood chatting in Italian colloquialisms and has a family connection everywhere for everything he needs. He's always very sweet and he can help you with just about anything because he has relatives in every business.
The day I came home from the nursery this spring with my supply of herbs and flowers for my balcony "garden" Little Old Italian Man spotted me hauling it all upstairs in the elevator via shopping cart. He asked me where I bought my plants. I said Tony's Nursery. He scolded me for spending all of that money at the fancy nursery. He could have gotten me cheaper plants (Don't ask me from where). Then he offered me tomatoes. He could get me tomatoes. I questioned whether or not our balconies really had space for tomato plants. He assured me it would not be a problem. After a brief visit where he inspected the space I still had left, he brought me two plants.
I put the plants out and waited.
Then I waited some more.
It rained all through June. In July I saw a few flowers. Then I saw some tiny little orbs.
Finally, last week, I got this. *
This was one of three tomatoes that managed to make it to maturity. One of them looks just like this. One of them is still in the process of turning red.
It pained me to pluck my two ripe tomatoes. What would I do with them? They were so small and once I plucked them, there wasn't likely to be more.
I can't take them with me, so I had to eat them eventually before they just rotted away. I decided to make a nice, light summer chicken dish that would incorporate my two precious little tomatoes, along with some other plum tomatoes from the farmer's market.
Here is a photo of both my tomatoes and the market ones for scale. I told you my little 'maters were small.
My dish was nothing particularly fancy. I spiced up some chicken breasts and then created a nice, cooling salad to go on the side of them. I used tomatoes, black beans, cilantro, lime, and a green pepper that I also bought at the farmer's market.
A light refreshing meal for the summer. We needed it because we had been eating like gluttons all weekend.
*My husband took this great photo. I really should make him take all of the photos for this blog. He's much better at it than I am and he has a nicer camera.
Spiced Chicken Breasts with Tomato-Black Bean Compote
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 2 Tbl olive oil
- 1 Tbl chipotle powder
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Plum tomatoes, diced
- 2-3 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- Juice of two limes
- 1 tsp salt
Combine chipotle, cocoa, cumin and the 1/2 tsp salt. Rub liberally all over the chicken breasts. Heat olive oil and saute chicken breasts until cooked through. You can also grill them if that's what floats your boat.
Slice chicken breasts and serve alongside the compote. Or serve them on top of the compote. Or serve them underneath the compote. Whatever you like.