Tomato Jam: A Love Story

2 minute read

It was a loamy Spring day in 2009. My wife and I had just arrived in Cannon Beach, Oregon for a little anniversary getaway, with no plans but to snuggle and listen to the tides. But as we climbed out of the car, our nostrils dilated and filled with the most delicious smell. We felt suddenly ravenous. Without even discussing it, we followed our noses into town, hoping to locate the aromatic source of our hunger pangs.

The day was fading. It was one of those evenings of warm and limpid light. Across the dunes, a distended red sun sank slowly into the sea. We strolled, hand in hand, on sidewalks that appeared to glow in their own pale heat.

Finally, we halted in front of a large and bustling kitchen. The doors had been thrown open wide, presumably not just to let in the pacific air, but to let out the piquant scents that had pulled us, like marionettes, to the threshold.

Two chefs (a husband and wife we would learn later) scurried about putting finishing touches on what looked to be a feast fit for the Duke of Orléans: mouthwatering trays of dumplings in shimmering ovens, colorful veggies piled high on enormous wooden cutting boards, lanes of vintage wine bottles arrayed like bowling pins, line-caught salmon on the chopping block, and a grill crowded with grass-fed steak. Someone in the back was pumping the air with dark whiffs of fresh coffee. It was quite a show. And they just happened to have two seats left for the evening’s festivities. We sat down. I don’t recall us even asking how much it cost—a rare lapse.

In the end, we did not just eat. We dined.

And we have been back every year without fail. The Dinner Show, as it is called, is performed by Bob and Lenore Neroni. It’s an intimate cooking experience, limited to an audience of about 20 people. The husband-and-wife team offers huge entertainment value and many practical tips on how to make even the simplest ingredients “pop” in your mouth.

For me, the stand-out dish that evening was Bob’s Tomato Jam, served atop grass-fed beef from the Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon. The jam is still one of the finest examples I’ve ever tasted of a Chef’s quest for balance among the forces of sweet, salty, savory, and tangy.

As I've mentioned before, red is the color of prostate-healthy food. Think Lycopene. So men, take note. This one's especially for you.

All of Bob and Lenore’s recipes are online, because they believe in teaching food techniques and food experience rather than recipes. That’s what they charge money for. The recipes themselves are free. Lucky you. Lucky me.

So here it is again, the link for Bob’s Tomato Jam.

I think you’ll find the clever mix of sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, parsley, shallots, sea salt, and coriander a very satisfying counterpoint to your steak—and a boon to your nether regions.

-bon appétit!

Yours in Health and Resilience,

Marc Wagner, MD, MPH.

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