Home Cooking: Le Beverly Bistro’s Urban Farming Tips

By Kristin Boza

Tim Sullivan and his family moved to Beverly/Morgan Park 13 years ago, bringing his north side tradition of decadent dinner parties to the south side. Over the last decade, Sullivan took his love of cooking to the next level and created an urban farm in his own backyard, yielding enough tomatoes to feed his family a steady diet of fresh tomato sauce all winter long.

Inspired by legendary Chicago chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless, Sullivan’s backyard “farm” supports his “out-of-control crazy cooking hobby,” he said. Out of this hobby, and his wife’s photography skills, Sullivan started an Instagram page at the urging of his daughters. Now, Le Beverly Bistro has nearly 800 followers salivating over the delectable dishes he prepares.

Fourteen years ago, Sullivan came across a tomato sauce recipe in Food & Wine magazine from famed Italian chef Marcella Hazan. Ever since, Sullivan makes batch upon batch of the sauce at the end of each farming season. He freezes the sauce and uses it all winter long.

“I have about 40 heirloom tomato plants and the first tomatoes start to come in around the end of July. For two months at the end of the summer, my oven is on and I’m roasting tomatoes to make Rick Bayless’ salsa and Marcella Hazan’s sauce,” he said. “It all goes into the freezer and is used to prepare all of our meals from scratch — in fact, our kids have never had a canned tomato in their lives.”

Despite not having any formal cooking training, Sullivan loves to indulge in his hobby to create a Top Chef style restaurant experience for his family and friends right in the comfort of his home.

“I can cook with my eyes closed; I love getting up on the cliff and pulling off an amazing chef dinner on a weeknight,” he said. “I also work on a continual cycle of cooking, composting and creating my own 500 pounds of organic fertilizer each year.”

The long-term goal for Sullivan is to open a farmhouse restaurant in Traverse City, “but for now I’m having a lot of fun on Instagram and urban farming,” Sullivan said.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

2 1/4 lbs ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400. Halve the tomatoes crosswise and arrange them cut-side up in a glass or ceramic baking dish in which they fit snugly. Sprinkle the parsley and garlic evenly over the tomatoes and season them with salt and pepper. Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil all over the tomatoes and bake them on the top rack of the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they are very tender, shrunken slightly and browned at the edges. Let the tomatoes cool slightly.

Lift the tomatoes with a fork, letting them drain well, and transfer them to a food mill (Editor’s Note: Sullivan uses a food processor). Puree the tomatoes into a bowl.