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Grainger County Tomato Bruschetta

Fresh Tomatoes

What to do with all those tomatoes? Take Jason Milanich’s lead and turn them into tomato bruschetta.

Milanich is the Executive Chef of The Lodge at Buckberry Creek's Restaurant in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where diners can enjoy their meal overlooking Mount LeConte and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. His Tomato Bruschetta is one of the many carefully crafted and delicious dishes he prepares at this farm-to-table fine dining restaurant perched on a tranquil hillside above the bustle of Gatlinburg below.

My family had a chance to try some of his amazing dishes on a recent ecotourism trip to Gatlinburg, the gateway to the most visited national park in the country and the nation's largest arts and crafts community.

Farm-to-Table Fine Dining

“The farm to table movement is something that we strive to achieve more and more as product availability opens up around us,” says Milanich. “There are new and exciting things ‘sprouting up’ every year in our area.”

“I do everything I can to acquire local ingredients from produce to proteins, if not from the surrounding area then from the southeast at least,” he adds. “I often stop on weekends at the farmers’ market in downtown Knoxville on my way to work. About 70% of the herbs used in the summer months come from our garden [on site].”

“The seafood coming into the United States is not regulated well,” notes Milanich. “I research the fish that I order to make sure that I'm not bringing anything in that is endangered or becoming over fished. I also rely on my years of experience and knowledge with seafood and will turn down anything that I think is in any way questionable. Certain seafood, such as clams, oysters and mussels, have documentation with them that states when and where they are harvested.”

Entree served at The Lodge at Buckberry Creek, Gatlinburg, Tenn. 

Where the Menu Changes Daily

“My favorite part of coming up with daily menu creations is the often new experience that our guests receive with foods they have never had and the pleasurable experience they get from it,” explains Milanich. “That, tied with how my staff soaks up being taught how to work with such products like elk and wild boar.”

“The menu selections are very diverse,” adds Milanich. “We don't fit into any particular category. Inspiration comes from all of us on staff, our experiences and our collective knowledge. We learn how to work with foods we have never worked with before to expand our knowledge and horizons, then pass that experience onto our guests.”  We loved his Pork Belly made with fresh herb chimichurri and pickled red onion (depicted in the photo).

Turning Tomatoes into an Appetizer

The Lodge at Buckberry Creek prepares a flavorful Tomato Bruschetta with Grainger County tomatoes, known for their rich flavor, texture and homegrown appearance. But your vine-ripened, freshly picked tomatoes are perfect for his recipe shared below.

Bruschetta is a fairly simple Italian antipasto starter dish, which, if you prepare the toasted bread slices ahead of time, means a delicious quick meal at the end of a long day working in your growing fields.

“The Tomato Bruschetta also makes for a great addition to salads or a topping on fresh cooked fish,” adds Milanich.

Grainger County Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

By Jason Milanich, Executive Chef of The Lodge at Buckberry Creek Restaurant

Yield: Serves 8


• 1 C. red wine
• 4 medium tomatoes
• 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp. minced garlic
• 1 tbsp. small diced shallot
• 1/2 tbsp. sugar
• 8 medium basil leaves
• 1 tsp. kosher salt


1. Reduce Red Wine over medium heat to about 2 Tbsp. Set in refrigerator to cool.

2. Dice tomatoes, then set in mixing bowl.

3. Add garlic, shallots, kosher salt, extra virgin olive oil, sugar and wine reduction. Mix and set aside.

4. Chiffonade basil leaves (cut into long, thin strips) and mix into the rest of the ingredients.

5. Cover and place in refrigerator for one hour, stirring occasionally.

6. Serve on top of crostini, which can be made from a large variety of breads, and topped with parmesan cheese.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10-kW Bergey wind turbine. Read all of John's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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