It’s been stinking hot out this last week throughout much of North America. Although we may sweat and curse the hot humid weather, many a vegetable crop is growing like crazy in the heat. This is tomato season!
Cucumbers and bell peppers are also joining the party, and that means it is time to make a batch of gazpacho.
A giant 12-foot-wide 'Marmonde' heirloom tomato bush from 2014
I never much cared for gazpacho, and that’s probably because I lived in Colorado and Alaska most of my adult life. These are not regions known for great tomatoes. You must have great tomatoes to make great gazpacho.
However, after I tasted gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes like 'Cherokee Purple', 'Brandywine', 'Marmonde' and others from my garden, I realized what I had been missing. Back in Colorado and Alaska, tomatoes were shipped from far away to our grocery stores, but they didn’t taste anything like the tomatoes I grow now or the ones I buy at local farmers markets here in Maryland. This was not a recipe for good gazpacho using travel-weary veggies.
Before the advent of refrigeration and rapid transport, humans ate what the seasons provided. That meant in North America fresh produce like tomatoes, asparagus, stone fruit, etc., were not available in their fresh-picked condition much of the year. In my decades on the planet, I’ve seen more out-of-season fruit and produce show up in my neighborhood grocery store each year as grocers try and tempt us.
A small but tasty recent harvest
At first, the novelty of buying heirloom tomatoes from California, fresh-picked cherries from Chile, or asparagus from Mexico seemed wonderful. Then, I got to thinking about sticking with local fresh produce and just saying “no” to the stuff from afar.
This is better for the environment, not to mention most of the produce that travels a few miles versus thousands of miles tends to taste better. Tomatoes don’t do very well in transport and are expensive to buy. I’d rather buy good canned tomatoes than crappy fresh tomatoes.
With the heat bringing us good home-grown and farmers market tomatoes, it’s time to share my favorite recipe for gazpacho. This was taught to me by my friend Manuel, from Spain. This recipe is easy and delicious. As long as you use good tomatoes, the results should be excellent.
• 3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into quarters
• 1/2 yellow onion chopped, about 1/2 cup
• 1 cup peeled and diced cucumber with seeds removed
• 1 cup diced green bell pepper
• 1 medium-sized apple, peeled and diced, I prefer 'Pink Lady' apples but 'Granny Smith' is also a good choice
• 1 clove garlic minced
• 5 Tbsp olive oil, good stuff (not the cheap crap)
• 2-3 Tbsp good quality apple cider vinegar
• 1 slice of bread, cubed (about 1 cup)
• 1 tsp salt
1. Soak bread in water for 5 or more minutes to soften. Drain water off before adding to the blender.
2. If using a blender instead of a food processor, put tomatoes in first to facilitate faster blending, then add rest of the ingredients.
3. If it won’t all fit, blend half for 30 to 60 seconds, and add rest of ingredients.
4. Blend thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. You want it to be smooth.
6. Best if chilled for an hour or 2, but can be eaten right away if needed.
Garnish with avocado or cilantro if desired.
Kurt Jacobson has been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt's travel blog, TasteofTravel2.com. Read all of Kurt's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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