Try this fermented “tomato” sauce in your next dish


Chef Jamie Bostian, executive chef of The Pines, a retirement community in Davidson, North Carolina, during a Charlotte Chapter recently demonstrated how to use end-of-season leaves from tomato plants to impart extra flavor for a salsa or sauce. To prevent wasted crop and use more of the plant, he collected leaves from Chef Jody Francisco, a fellow ACF Chefs of Charlotte member who helms the kitchen and student teaching farm at Charlotte’s Garinger High School. With school out of session because of the summer and the pandemic, Chef Francisco had more harvest than he needed, so he challenged fellow chefs to pick from the garden and use crops in different ways. An enthusiastic canner and fermenter, Chef Bostian came up with the idea of fermenting the tomato leaves in order to reduce their bitterness and bring out their natural tomato flavor. This salsa can be used in a variety of ways, including as a sauce for meatless, eggplant “meatballs” (both recipes below). To learn more about Chef Jamie, read his profile article that first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of National Culinary Review (link:

Fermented Tomato Salsa 

Yield: About 2 cups

  • 1 1/2 pound fresh peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion, roughly chopped 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tomato leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves 
  • Juice of 1 lime 
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  1. Combine all ingredients except salt in a food processor and process until chunky. Season with salt. 
  2. Pack the mixture into a mason jar, but put the lid aside. Instead, cover the jar with a resealable plastic bag filled with water to create a weighted, air-tight seal. Set on counter and allow to ferment for 7 to 14 days depending. The salsa will have a pleasant, pickled smell to it when ready. 
  3. Once fermented, seal with the jar with the reserved lid and transfer to the refrigerator. Sauce will last up to 6 months.

Eggplant “Meatballs” 

Yield: 10 meatballs 

  • 3 large eggplant
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 large eggs, beaten 
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder 
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  1. Slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 10 minutes to draw out water. Pat dry and season with pepper. 
  2. Roast eggplant until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Transfer to food processor and pulse until chunky. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix together eggplant, eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic and onion powder until well-combined. Fold in breadcrumbs. Shape eggplant mixture into 1 ½-inch? balls. 
  4. In a large, ovenproof pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and sear on all sides until golden brown. Transfer pan to oven and roast at 425°F  until warmed through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately with your favorite cooked pasta and warmed fermented tomato salsa, or cool and freeze for up to 3 months.