by Guest Vicki Lane
“The tomato vines, heavy with fruit, were sagging on their baling twine supports. Their lower leaves, spotted and rusty with incipient blight, would have to be clipped and burned, but the upper parts of the vines were continuing to put out tender new growth and star-like yellow blossoms. Elizabeth began to fill her plastic milk crate with the long, firm San Marzanos and Romas that would form the basis of herb-rich sauces to be stored in the freezer, as well as providing leathery oven-dried tomatoes bursting with the concentrated flavor of summer. There was a small basket for the tiny grape tomatoes whose seeds a cousin had brought from France – first choice for a tossed salad or eating out of hand.
Finally, there were the enormous slicing tomatoes – the aristocracy of the garden – deep crimson Brandywine, dark Cherokee, Black Krim, and a bright yellow nameless beauty whose seeds had come from Miss Birdie, a little bland in taste, perhaps, but so gorgeous in company with the others. Elizabeth laid these giants carefully in her big willow basket, envisioning a cobalt blue platter heaped with rounds of red and yellow interposed with slices of creamy fresh mozzarella, the whole glistening with generous amounts of olive oil, a prudent sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, shining crystals of sea salt, and fragrant ribbons of fresh green basil.”
This passage from my novel Art’s Blood inspired a reader in Hawaii to email me and accuse me of writing tomato porn – and causing her to lust after tomatoes that she had no hope of obtaining.
Just now, as I write this in the first week of September, we are drowning in a sea of tomatoes. I have been canning and roasting and freezing and trying to use those luscious tomatoes in every way possible, all too aware that really good fresh tomatoes will soon be but a memory.
Gazpacho is a wonderful way to take advantage of this bounty. One can be very purist and chop everything by hand but then one wouldn’t make Gazpacho nearly so often – the processor turns this into fast food. My recipe is based on Classic Chunky Gazpacho from Sam at My Carolina Kitchen but I take some liberties. I also don’t actually measure – but I have a pretty good feel for what makes a tablespoon.
Begin by filling the food processor with cut up red tomatoes and whirring them till soupy – not pureed but not chunky either. Then pour this batch into a big container and fill the processor with more cut up tomatoes which you process into chunks. (I use a mix of tomatoes for this run – Green Zebras which are ripe and bright green, some yellows, some more reds – whatever’s ripe.)
Add this second batch of tomatoes to the container then use the processor to grind up two peeled cucumbers. Add to tomato mix. Repeat with onion and garlic – we like our gazpacho with lots more than Sam’s recipe calls for – I used one large onion and four large garlic cloves.) Finally, process till chopped, a bell pepper, green or red, or, if you like heat and I do, two or three jalapenos.
Stir all the veggies together, add the juice of a lemon, about four tablespoons each of olive oil and red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (I used homemade herb vinegar,) salt and pepper to taste, and a dollop of hot sauce (again, to taste. I like Sriracha hot sauce.)
Serve very cold. Embellishments such as garlicky croutons or a bit of sour cream are nice but unnecessary.
Here’re some more ways to have fun with tomatoes – or maters, as we call them in my neck of the woods.Je Ne Sais Quoi Sandwich
Vicki Lane is the author The Day of Small Things and of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries which include Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony-nominated In A Dark Season, and Under the Skin (coming from Bantam Dell 10/18.) Vicki draws her inspiration from the rural western NC county where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975. Please visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website or go HERE to learn more about Under the Skin.