Here in San Diego, we have perfect weather and a long growing season, but unfortunately my yard also has lots of shade. I mean, lots of shade! I have a small patch in the front which gets sunlight for a few hours during the summer months, but that's it. I've tried growing tomatoes here in the past, but they don't like it. Which saddens me more than I can say, because to me, there is absolutely nothing more heavenly than a ripe tomato picked off the vine. I wrote about my father's tomatoes in an earlier post, and those memories come back every summer when fresh, vine ripened tomatoes are available in the farmer's markets. I find myself hauling back arm loads of them, and when I get home I look at the cat and realize that she will not be helping me out here. I must figure out how to deal with them by myself. But tomatoes are one of those fruits which have so many possibilities that I never worry.
When searching for the perfect tomato recipe, I turn to the Mediterranean. I mean, that area of the world can make tomatoes, garlic and bread into a seemingly endless variety of food. You sit down to eat something scrumptious, and then your realize that it's another version of tomatoes garlic and onion. DUH!
These days the weather has been hot and humid, so my thoughts turn to things which don't have to be cooked. I will fix my chai in the morning, but I'm really not loving the idea of turning on the oven for any reason. So when I came across this recipe for an Andalusian style gazpacho, I knew I had found my solution. So simple, but sooooo much better than any other gazpacho I've ever made. In the past, I've always thought of gazpacho as a kind of a salad in a bowl. Cucumbers and onions were always in there. I didn't realize that you could make it without these ingredients until I found this version, which highlights the tomatoes and the olive oil. For best results, try to use mostly fresh tomatoes, and preferably the low acid kind which are sweeter. If you must add to that, it will be fine - especially if you can swing it so that at least 50% of your tomatoes are fresh. The quality of this soup is totally dependent upon the quality of your tomatoes and olive oil. Use the best stuff you can find. You won't be disappointed - I promise!
Gazpacho "El Faro"
The classic Andalusian gazpacho is found all over the region with surprisingly few variations, except for the addition of cucumber and onion — ingredients that have fallen out of favor with chefs who prefer to allow the pure taste of the tomatoes, Sherry vinegar, and olive oil to shine through. In this version, cumin lends an intriguing, subtle flavor.
Active time: 30 min Start to finish: 3 1/2 hr
Servings: Makes 4 servings.Ingredients:
1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably "reserva"), or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca)
Garnish: finely chopped red and green bell peppers
Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.
Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife). Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.
Force soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing firmly on solids. Discard solids.
Transfer to a glass container and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 hours. Season with salt and vinegar before serving.
• Gazpacho can be chilled up to 2 days.
• I had leftover cucumbers, so I used them as a garnish. Avocados would be a terrific garnish as well.