Tag Archives: garden

Gazpacho Galore

It’s 102 degrees out — or it was the last time I checked, which was at 11:30 this morning. With a massive July heatwave affecting at least half of the lower 48, one’s thoughts naturally turn toward any kind of food that requires no cooking. Thank God for gazpacho.

My kitchen counter is overflowing with tomatoes this summer. Time for gazpacho!

Because it’s July, I also have a bumper crop of tomatoes in my garden which need to be eaten in copious quantities on a daily basis before they rot on the kitchen counter. I could, of course, also slice them and put them outside to sun-dry so that I can relish in their intense flavors when the snow begins to fly, but, honestly, I don’t want to go out there. It’s too hot, even for this Florida girl.

Gazpacho is, of course, so easy to make that I am embarrassed to bring it up at all, but I have learned that sometimes the simplest recipes are the ones that people are afraid to make. A basic gazpacho requires no more than a blender and a lot of tomatoes — you can pretty much do anything you want with it at that point. You’ll also see fancy bistros touting dishes like White Grape Gazpacho on their sidewalk chalkboards, so, if you’re so inclined, go ahead and experiment.

On the left, golden pear tomatoes in the blender; on the right, a variety of red tomatoes pulsed into submission.

However, tomatoes are generally cheap and plentiful this time of year, not to mention incredibly flavorful and refreshing on a seriously hot day. There are basically two types of gazpacho — chunky or smooth, rather like peanut butter. The chunky version is generally tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers (and salt and pepper), pulsed in a blender to a loosely chunky consistency. Just chop ’em up and throw them in, skins, seeds, and all.

I call this my Bloody Mary Gazpacho, which I made with red tomatoes, celery, and cucumber and a touch of Tabasco. Topped with a chunky celery leaf guacamole and cucumbers that were briefly marinated in apple cider vinegar.

The smooth version is pretty much the same, only blended to a smooth consistency and then strained through a sieve. I personally like to make the smooth version, because it makes a lovely cold soup to which I can then choose to add more chopped veggies, including tomatoes, cukes, and zucchini, as well as chopped fresh herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, or oregano. It’s a nice touch to add a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt to serve as a creamy yet tart counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho, inspired by the amazing version at Busboys and Poets, one of my favorite DC restaurants. I kept the soup simple and focused on the sweetness of the yellow tomatoes, then topped it with chopped avocado and a spoonful of labne (a Middle Eastern thickened yogurt).

You’ll want to let the gazpacho chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving; it’s so easy to make that you can blend it up before work — or going to the pool — and then enjoy its lovely refreshing coolness when you get home. A perfect pick-me-up when you are soggy and wilted from an overdose of global warming.

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Attack of the Tomatoes, Part 1

This is just one day's worth of tomatoes from my little urban garden.

It’s the middle of July and my vegetable garden is beginning to overflow with tomatoes. I’ve also got some cucumbers that went from cute little green pups to slightly obscene 14-inch-long two-pounders overnight, but that’s another story. Right now I am focusing each day on what to do with the tomatoes while they are perfect and fresh, so that I can enjoy the memories in January when I am over the winter euphoria.

Because it’s July, it’s also bloody hot, so we are mostly eating a lot of raw tomatoes: in salad with a nice vinaigrette, on bruschetta, or just munching on them like apples or cherries, depending on the size. As usual, I’m growing several varieties this year, including Grape, Strawberry, Roma, Better Boy, Big Beef, and, of course, a wonderful heirloom tomato called Old German, which I plant each year in honor of my in-laws (and maybe now my husband, since he’s turned 50).

But sometimes you just wanna cook, so I opted last night to make a Tomato and Basil Bread Soup, which is delicious served hot, but also is terrific cold if you can chill it for about three hours before serving. I really hadn’t thought before to make a bread soup during the summer, but I recently had an amazing version of this soup at Acqua Al 2, a wonderful new Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill (a real favorite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle), and it reminded me that it would be a great recipe for using up some of the tomatoes taking up real estate on my kitchen counter.

Even though I actually had to turn on the stove to make this beauty, the cooking time is pretty quick, so your kitchen shouldn’t get too overheated. We had this as a main course, so I included garbanzo beans for a little extra protein, because that’s what I had on hand, but it would work great with cannelini beans or even chunks of Italian sausage (make sure it’s already cooked when you add it to the soup). Whether you grow your own tomatoes or pick them up at the farmer’s market, this soup is a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and is particularly good when followed by a glass of chilled Limoncello. Buon appetito!

Tomato and Basil Bread Soup

1 baguette, slightly stale and sliced into 1-inch slices

4 cups vegetable stock

3 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped

1/2 cup packed basil leaves, finely sliced into a chiffonade

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (canned is fine — just rinse in cold water)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 TB balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Toasted baguette slices and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

In a large stockpot, heat 3 TB olive oil over medium-low heat, then add baguette slices and stir them around to coat in the olive oil. Allow them to brown lightly, turning down heat to low if they are cooking quickly and drizzling with a little more olive oil. Add the tomatoes, stock, and garlic and stir all the ingredients together; the bread will start to break apart, thickening the soup into something akin to a stew.

Let the soup come to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Add the chick peas, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes. Serves 4.

To serve hot: Ladle into bowls and garnish each, if you wish, with 2 toasted baguette slices, a tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese, some fresh basil, and a little drizzle of olive oil.

To serve cold: Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 – 3 hours before serving. Garnish as above, or just top with a dollop of mascarpone.

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