For the past five years or so, my very best friend and I have diligently gone to Tomatomania each April when it comes to town. We may have missed a year somewhere in that time, but still buy tomato plants elsewhere so we can make like suburban farmers and enjoy our own home grown, warmed by the sun orbs of summer lusciousness. I have to fess up and say my friend’s plot is quite huge so she can let her tomato plants grow wildly over the sunny terraced hillside behind her house, whereas I am only a poser who keeps two large pots near the side of my house. And if those tomato plants are lucky, they’ll get most of the sun they’re supposed to have. I’ve had good years, and then I’ve had not so good years — like this year.
My plants are tall and scraggly, have been producing lots of blossoms, but very few tomatoes. Yes, they’ve been appropriately watered and fertilized. I even remembered to plant them making sure the first sprout of leaves was buried. I tried egg shells around the stems this year, too, and ironically, this is the first year I’ve had stems rot. I’m about ready to rip them out of their pots to plant something else. However, my friend is having a bumper crop.
After paying $6 for a gorgeous heirloom tomato at one of our fabulous farmer’s markets last Sunday, she called to say she wanted to drop off some tomatoes, then the very next day sent me home with more. What does one do with so many tomatoes outside of occasionally enjoying one sliced and lightly salted?
Make a simple tomato salad like the one below. Slice the tomatoes, sprinkle over some sliced green onions, a bit of cilantro, avocado slices and some feta. A squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkle of salt and pepper finishes it.
Or this tomato bacon and zucchini stack was a good way to enjoy some of my friend’s tomato bounty. I enjoyed it for breakfast one morning, and even though some may turn their noses up at this unconventional morning meal, it was perfect fun to make and quite tasty. I used both yellow and red tomatoes, shaved a few slices from zucchini I had, cut two pieces of bacon in half and added 1/4 an avocado as well. Cilantro, lime juice, and seasoning finished it.
This easily could have been a tomato prosciutto basil mozzarella stack, but I used what I had in the house and it worked out just fine.
My son looked at it and said, “Now how do you eat it?”
“Like this,” I answered, grinning, because chopping it up is also fun. Fun aside, chopping helps all the flavors to mingle with that incredibly fresh tomato juice, reminding me of chunky salsa — minus the chips of course.
As much as I enjoyed making easy dishes like these as well as a few tomato sandwiches thrown in for good measure, it didn’t put a dent in our tomato bounty. I decided it was time to make to make something I’ve always wanted to try — gazpacho. Gazpacho is by tradition a Spanish tomato soup very popular in the hot summer months because it is not only served cold — all the ingredients are raw. It’s the perfect thing to make with the best tomatoes you can find at peak ripeness. Although there are a variety of recipes easily found, a classic Andalusian gazpacho contains tomatoes, garlic, red bell pepper, sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and a very small quantity of bread. It is blended together, seasoned, and chilled before serving.
I decided to give my first attempt at this Spanish classic a Southwest spin.
Recipe for Southwest Tomato Gazpacho
2-1/2 lbs. tomatoes (about 4 large)
1 T garlic
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 splashes sherry vinegar
1/2 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed
1 handful cilantro
8-10 good slices cucumber
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
avocado garnish, optional
- Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and add them to a food processor or blender.
- Add all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil and process with pulses to break everything down before letting the motor run until the mixture is well-processed.
- With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream and process until the mixture is very smooth.
- Taste before adding salt and pepper and then blend in.
- Pour into a lidded container and chill several hours or overnight.
- Serve with a bit of avocado and cilantro if desired.
- We loved this! I was the fortunate one who finished it off for lunch the next day and think the overnight sit in the fridge improved the already delicious flavor nicely, so consider that if you try this recipe.
- If you’re not sure about the jalapeno, it’s just enough to give a spark — but no heat. On the other hand, more heat could be nice!
- When I use cilantro, I include the stems — I like their flavor.
- I thought about leaving the olive oil out and blending in half an avocado but wasn’t comfortable with the idea of it turning black since the soup isn’t cooked. I should try it and find out next time.
- And speaking of olive oil — traditional recipes include as much as a whole cup for a recipe with only four servings. I truly enjoy a good olive oil and believe it adds wonderful flavor to this gazpacho, but settled for far less than a cup. I did taste the tomato mixture before I added the oil because I’d actually forgotten about it. I was trying to figure out why the flavor was so bland and was already wondering what else I might include when I saw the measured olive oil sitting on the counter. So glad I realized my mistake! The quality of olive oil you use will make a big difference.
- This makes 4 large servings, or 6 medium servings. If you’d like a nice summer starter, serve in glasses with long-handled spoons.
- It’s light on the calories as well, so make a batch to enjoy over a couple of days when you have run out of ideas for the tomatoes from your garden.
- Want to know more about Gazpacho? Read about it at Clifford Wright.
More Gazpacho Recipes from Around the Web
Soup Chick — Watermelon Gazpacho
Leite’s Culinaria — Portuguese White Gazpacho
The Arugula Files — Gazpacho
Matt Bites — Gazpacho 2 Ways
Delicious Days — Watermelon-Strawberry Gazpacho