Friday, July 16, 2010
Another red-letter day in my personal calendar for 2010: July 15th, the Feast of First Gazpacho.
Seriously -- I feel like summer has only truly arrived when I'm able to fire up the Cuisinart for that first batch of cucumber/tomato soup. Despite the passing of solstice nearly a month ago and record-setting 100+ temperatures recently, summer wasn't really real for me until I realized last night that I had finally accumulated enough ripe tomatoes for a righteous round of gazpacho.
The irony is that none of my real tomatoes are anywhere near ready; I grow heirlooms, and they take their sweet time ripening. However, my next-door neighbor had some extra veggie starts he purchased back in May and gifted me with a couple of well-established hybrid tomato plants -- some Sweet 100 cherries and an Early Girl, the commercially raised plants all significantly larger than my earnest, spindly little started-from-seed heirlooms. So while waiting for the *real* tomatoes to get a move on I've been getting a couple of (unreal?) cherry tomatoes each day for the past couple of weeks, and maybe a small ripe Early Girl every other day, while the rest of the tomato herd languishes along far behind.
Early Girl has never been a favorite of mine; the tomatoes are small, with a dry, even mealy, texture, and they don't have a lot of flavor. But heck, you want tomatoes in early July, here is how to get them -- this hybrid lives up to its name (at least the "early" part; I have no idea what flavor the "girl" might contribute). I've learned to leave them on the plant to the point of over-ripeness as a way to maximize the flavor and even impart a little bit of juiciness, but it requires stone-cold discipline not to pluck those first little red globes from the vine when it's going on nine months since I last tasted an actual, ripe REAL tomato...maybe there's something significant about that natal time frame. Maybe it's just my brain wilting in the heat -- we spent most of today out on the Gunpowder, where it is currently 95 degrees, Accuweather Real Feel (tm) 104 degrees -- but today I'm wiling to swear I look forward to each summer's first tomato with nearly the intensity that I awaited the birth of my children.
Get your hands on some good tomatoes and try my gazpacho recipe, and see if you don't agree that anticipation is the ultimate appetite stimulant.
Michelle's Juicy Gazpacho
6-8 tomatoes, ripe as can be, quartered
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
2-3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil -- the best you can find
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
salt to taste
Toss garlic into Cuisinart and pulse until finely chopped. Add everything else, pulse several times until coarsely pureed. Taste and correct for seasoning; I suggest starting with the smaller amount of vinegar and adding more if needed -- the amount depends heavily on the acidity of the tomatoes.
I eat this straight, or with sliced avocado, sometimes croutons tossed on top.