It’s summer and that means it’s prime time for tomatoes. Nothing beats fresh, locally-grown tomatoes, especially heirloom varietals (the uglier the better). Like many of you, I eagerly await for these beauties to arrive; and for good reason, a store bought tomato will never taste as good as a tomato that has ripened on the vine, and grown with love. NEVER!
This reminds me of a piece I heard recently on NPR, The Troubled History of the-Supermarket Tomato. The podcast highlights how supermarket tomatoes are bred for high yield and durability, but not flavor.
Depending on the time of year, at certain times of the winter, 90 percent of the fresh tomatoes that we find in supermarkets are grown in Florida. However, Florida’s climate and soil are completely unsuitable for growing tomatoes, and are susceptible to a multitude of pests. Accordingly, farmers drench their fields in pesticides and fertilizers.The tomatoes are picked when they are still green and unripened, and then exposed to ethylene gas, which causes them to turn red, before being transported across the country to a grocery store near you — perfectly shaped, shiny and red, and absolutely tasteless.There’s an even darker side to the tomato than this; that is, a long-troubled history of slave labor. Take a listen when you have a moment.
That being said, the local tomato must be celebrated. I’ve decided to pay tribute by preparing a chilled tomato soup, gazpacho, Andalusian style, along with some anchovy toasts slathered with fresh tomato, garlic, and anchovies. What a perfect, refreshing lunch on a hot and muggy 90+ degree day here in Washington, D.C. (strange not to say Chicago; just moved to D.C.). When you have fresh ingredients, you don’t have to do much to transform them into something special and flavorful. Just toss all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, chill, and enjoy. Let mother nature shine!
2 pounds local tomatoes (used a mixture of (1 lg) Purple Cherokee and Sun Gold)
1/2 green or red pepper
1 small roll, crusts removed, soaked in a little bit of water to soften
2 large or 3 small cloves garlic
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled (used 2 Persian cucumbers)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Large pinch smoked hot paprika
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (used apple wood smoked salt)
I roasted the green pepper and jalapeno over the stove top until charred on all sides, which adds a nice smokey flavor. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds, and roughly chop.
Roughly chop the tomatoes, garlic, and cucumbers.
Place all the gazpacho ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process to a smooth puree. Chill in the refrigerator. Garnish with any number of toppings, along with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a touch of sherry vinegar, and a sprinkle of course sea salt.
Cucumber, finely diced
Green/red pepper, finely diced
Tomato, finely diced
Chives, finely chopped
Sprig of cilantro
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Anchovy and Tomato Toasts
In recent years, anchovies and other small fishes (especially sardines) have really grown on me. They are environmentally sustainable (plentiful at the moment), low on the food chain (which translates into low PCB levels), and, in my opinion, quite tasty. A couple of anchovies atop a nice piece of crusty bread slathered with tomato and fresh garlic are a perfect accompaniment to a bowl of chilled gazpacho.
Sliced, toasted bread
Large (locally-grown) red tomatoes
Garlic clove, whole
Oil-packed or salt-packed anchovies, rinsed (2 per slice of bread)
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
With a box grater, grate the tomatoes.
If using salt-cured anchovies, remove the spine and soak in water for 30 minutes, changing the water, every 10 minutes.
Rub the toasted bread with garlic. Spoon on the grated tomato. Place two anchovies on top of each toast, pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.