Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Of course I know that there are seasons for food but there are really only a few rules to which I steadfastly stick: Braised short ribs: only after Labor Day. Crawfish: late spring, early summer. Ratatouille: June to fall. And, of course, Gazpacho: Late summer. Throw in Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho and you are really limited on time frame but the wait and the limited access are totally worth it for the end result.
I know it is time for gazpacho when I see piles of heirloom tomatoes start to go soft before being purchased. When the grocers are so overladen with them that plastic containers of multi colored salsa go on sale in iced down bins in the middle of the produce section. When you start to plan meals based on which color tomato you are most likely to find at your otherwise unremarkable local grocery: Brandywine, Green Zebra, Dixie Golden Giant or Granny Cantrell.
It is then, and only then, that I make gazpacho.
For years I have used an old recipe, well-worn and tucked into the back of one of those blank book “recipe books” that my sister gave me 20 years ago. The book is mostly empty with the exception of the 5 recipes she wrote in it before giving it to me and two I added – plus this piece of paper which, naturally, disappeared at the minute I needed it leaving me with the ingredients I knew by heart – tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic and onions and no description of their exact amounts.
I was left no choice but to recreate it from memory and I had a great result: It is, honestly, better than the recipe that preceded it!
The key here is that there are three levels of chopping for the fruit and vegetables. The first is that you use the food processor to roughly chop 85% of the veggies. Then you pour the liquids and some of those blended veggies into a blender and let it blend for two minutes. Lastly, you top with delicately chopped veggies. This process brings out different flavors for different pieces and it all comes together to create a slightly sweet, smooth, tart and acidic concotion that will have your mouth watering at the smell and desperate for more.
Promise me you will only use this recipe in August and September when tomatoes are luscious and ripe and you are so very hot you need something that sees not even a hint of warmth before making it to the dining table. Pinky swear? Okay. You can have it.
- 3 lbs various heirloom tomatoes, cored and chopped.
- 3 large stalks of celery
- 1/2 yellow bellpepper
- 1/2 green bellpepper
- 1/2 red bellpepper
- 1 small red onion (5 oz after peeling)
- 1/2 english cucumber (8 oz)
- 1/2 cup passata
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 dashes of tabasco
- 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Rough chop all vegetables and add to one large bowl. While rough chopping, set aside a few pieces to cut neatly to use as garnish on top. (I like a little bellpepper and some cucumber but it's up to you what you use).
- In a small bowl or pitcher, mix together the sherry vinegar, olive oil and passata. Using a food processor, blend the vegetables in thirds (or whatever your processor will take). After all vegetables are blended add a large ladle of the blended veggies back into a food processor or into a blender and add the liquids. Blend for 3 minutes until the mixture is pureed and orange.
- Combine the very pureed mixture with the food processed veggies. Whisk together. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Taste for salt and vinegar. Serve with warm rustic bread.
- When possible use vegetables from a farmers market. Not because I am a farmers market snob but because the flavors of the veggies - especially the bellpeppers are way more intense when batch grown.