“Do we really need 10 tomato plants?”
That was my question last May as my husband and I loaded up a cart at Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center (http://www.johnsonsflorists.com/).
“But 10? Do we need 10?”
I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation, which continued along the same lines until my husband pointed out that we would only have eight plants if I’d agree to part with the yellow pear and black Russian varieties.
Sacrilege! We ended up buying 10 plants. And thanks to this summer’s searing heat, I’ve had two never-ending bowls of ripe tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter for a good six weeks. (Yellow pear and black Russian included.)
Thank goodness they’re tomatoes! There comes a time every summer when I simply cannot put another cucumber in my mouth. When I stare dully at the pile of zucchini and yellow squash and wonder how I can possibly cook them again. When I clap for joy as the bush beans wilt.
But tomatoes? Bring them on! We’re roasting them, marinating them, slicing them onto bagels and baguettes, drizzling them with olive oil and balsamic, broiling them with fresh mozzarella. We’ve even hauled out the canning pot and put up five pints for summer tomatoes this winter.
But every once in awhile, we want something different. Something a little more nuanced than plain tomato slices.
In her wonderful cookbook/cooking memoir Sunday Suppers At Lucques, chef Suzanne Goin offers 32 seasonal menus from her LA restaurant, Lucques (http://www.lucques.com/). While beautiful, most of the recipes can be daunting. (Grilled pancetta-wrapped trout with verjus, crushed grapes and fennel gratin, anyone?) But tucked amid the clafoutis and confits is a simple soup that both whirs up for an easy weeknight dinner and dresses up for a weekend dinner party. The only “work” part is peeling the tomatoes (a must to achieve the right texture), but with boiling water the process takes very little time.
You can make this soup with any type of tomato. Goin’s recipe calls for yellow fruit, but I think it’s best with a combination — yellow pear and black Russian included. Best of all, it doubles and even triples with ease, using bowlfuls of garden tomatoes in the process.
My husband, it turns out, was right. You can never have too many tomatoes.
Tomato Gazpacho (adapted from Sunday Suppers At Lucques)
Pick 2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes and cut an X in the bottom. Blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Move to a bowl of ice water, then use your fingers to slip off the skins. Remove the cores and roughly chop, saving the juice.
Place have the tomatoes with their juices in a blender. Add half a large, peeled cucumber, half a jalepeno (seeded if you want less heat), 2 sprigs of cilantro, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Puree until completely smooth, then pour into a serving bowl.
Place the other half of your tomatoes with their juices in a blender. Add the rest of the peeled cucumber and jalpeno, 2 more sprigs of cilantro or a handful of fresh basil (or both!), 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and some more salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth and pour into your serving bowl.
Taste and season more if you like. If the soup seems too thick, add some ice water to thin. Chill until very, very cold.