Making the Most of Summer Tomatoes
This weekend, my family and I road-tripped to Detroit for a wedding. The bride looked gorgeous, the food was great and we had a fun time. More importantly for this site, we came home loaded with fresh vegetables, grown by my great uncle in his backyard — lots of greens, a summer squash that’s as long as my arm and twice as wide and a bag full of ripe, sweet tomatoes.
Now, in full disclosure mode: I hate fresh tomatoes. The juice slobbers, the seeds have a weird consistency and the insides are mush. Cooked tomatoes? Yes, please. But in original form, tomatoes are a no go. It’s a shame, because the cherry tomatoes would have made an excellent Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil.
Perhaps then it doesn’t quite make sense that I love gazpacho. I first tried it in Andalucia, the southern region of Spain (where white gazpacho, made with day-old bread, almonds and cucumbers, is also very popular) and fell in love with this delicious chilled summer soup. Traditionally, the tomatoes aren’t actually cooked, just pureed with other vegetables, olive oil and vinegar.
The beauty of gazpacho is that you can take this basic guideline and turn it into whatever you want. Some recipes call for grilled vegetables, others for watermelons. Melissa Clark at the New York Times even creates a gazpacho smoothie.
I loosely followed a Food & Wine recipe from Teresa Barrenechea. Because my family likes its food spicy, I added a jalapeño. While passing through a farmer’s market this morning, I nabbed a purple bell pepper, which was slightly sweeter than a green pepper but too pretty (yes, that’s the technical term) to pass up.
– 6 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped (I went with three plums and about a dozen cherry tomatoes)
– 1/2 cucumber, chopped
– 1 green pepper, chopped
– 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
– 1 cup water
– 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
– 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Blend all of the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste and chill for a few hours before serving.
The soup is tangy, spicy, sweet and showcases summer’s tomato bounty perfectly. Top it with a diced cucumber and red onion salad, a little olive oil and make sure you have plenty of bread for dipping.