Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tomato, Tomahto

I'm continuing farm fresh week here at the hungry hippo. It all started with a trip to the Trenton Farmer's Market, which you can learn more about at Half a Yard. Today - you say tomato, I say tomahto - why Jersey tomatoes are pure bliss.

I hate to break this to you, but what you've been eating is NOT a tomato. In fact, this time of year I'm reminded that what I've been eating is not a tomato. Or what I've been avoiding is not a tomato. Those limp pinkish things that they put on sandwiches? The mushy wedges lurking in your salad greens? NOT TOMATOES. I promise. Because tomatoes are an amazing, amazing thing. When the summer gets nice and hot, Jersey works its magic and somehow, these perfect red globes appear to remind you of everything a tomato could and should be.

A true Jersey tomato is heaven sliced with just a sprinkle of salt. If you must, slice some fresh mozzarella to place on top of the slices and drizzle with a smidge of extra virgin olive oil (yes, it must be extra virgin - this is about the best ingredients, nothing less). You can then top with a beautiful confetti of fresh basil (unless your husband gets violently ill from basil like mine does).

If you've acquired enough of them, you might find yourself willing slice them up to become the star of a BLT.

But if you have a true bounty of them, it is time for gazpacho.

I know. Shut up. Just add a set of googly eyes and it looks like a muppet head. I'm still working on the food photography thing.

Muppets aside, I'm serious about the cold soup. I'm so serious that it's been about three years since I've had gazpacho and I'm still hung up on it. There's no way I could hope to touch the perfection of what I had, but ever since I tasted the gazpacho at Chez Les Anges, I cannot get the thought out of my head. Gazpacho with avocado. Why don't more people do this? The silky creamy avocado is the perfect balance to the sharp fresh spicy tomato. They were M.F.E.O. (made for each other - those of you who have also seen Sleepless in Seattle too many times know this).

inspired by Chez Les Anges

1 whole avocado (per 2 people - save until the end)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, chopped (seeded too if you have a crappy blender) if you seed them, add another third of a cucumber
3 1/2 baseball sized ripe tomatoes, chopped(bonus if they're farm fresh)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 slices slightly stale good bread, torn into pieces
2 T red wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar because that's all I've got, but I would have preferred red wine)
1 T hot sauce
1 1/4 C water (or more if you like it thinner)
1/4 C olive oil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

If you have a real blender for heaven's sake use it. I only have an immersion blender and it was messier than I care to discuss and did not get the soup as smooth as I would have liked.

If you have a real blender, combine everything but salt and pepper and process until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste.  If you own a real blender maybe you don't need to chop everything?  If you're stuck with an immersion blender, you have to chop your solid ingredients. HAVE TO.

If you only have an immersion blender, put all liquid ingredients (hot sauce, water, vinegar, oil) in a pot and then add the garlic, cucumber and tomato. Get it as smooth as you can, then add the bread. Let it soak a bit to soften up. Then try your best to keep the blender actually immersed as you continue to blend. Then add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, peel and pit the avocado. Place half and an avocado in each bowl. We had them served all in one piece, but certainly slice if that strikes your fancy. That would probably avoid the muppet face problem. Although, if you're trying to feed this to kids, you may want to look into googly eyes, hard boiled eggs perhaps? With olives?


Anonymous said...

Maybe we should move to Jersey! Since getting back from 6 months in Italy where tomatoes were tomatoes and basil danced, I've been disappointed time after time by the tomatoes here in AZ for the most part. I did get some good ones recently at a market, hmmmm

JMLC said...

I've made food with googly eyes. I'm just sayin'. If you check out Lady Gouda, she has a tomato pie- another use for tomatos. This looks good though- maybe I can convince A. that cold soup is dinner?

Carrietracy said...

gfg - I'm so sorry you don't have access to great tomatoes. You seriously can't drive ten minutes in any direction from my parents without finding a farm stand with them.

JMLC - I saw Lady Gouda's recipe and she had me until mayonnaise. So inconvenient. I doubt you could convince A that this is dinner. I couldn't convince Ryan. I made this plus a corn salad and he still made himself a grilled cheese. I thought it was dinner.

mom said...

We are awash in tomatoes...Jersey tomatoes! I love them in a tomato sandwich. Two slices of white bread. Jersey tomatoes. Mayo. Salt. Pepper. Bliss.
But I might like some avocado with that. Love your suggestion for gazpacho- no green peppers!! You are a genius!!

mom said...

Ok, I tried your gazpacho- still working on toothsome (in an entirely different sense!) foods. It is delicious. I will not go back to Thomas Keller. Yours is easier- bonus! and better. But, I did leave out the bread. Next time.


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