Sunday, September 18, 2011


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.


  1. I have hopped over from Vicki's blog - this is a wonderful post, I have read all of Vicki's books and love it when food and recipes are mentioned. This recipe certainly sounds worth giving a try. Wonderful words and photos ...and recipe.

  2. Calling via Vicki's blog too, and I am now going to raid the greenhouse for tomatoes (there is still one plant hanging in, after the worst summer in Ireland for over fifty years) to ensure I can taste the recipe above (I have been salivating throughout the text). I have never seen such a wonderful array of tomatoes and fear I too may be lusting after fruit I can never have!

  3. I am super jealous of your tomatoes Vicki. Ours are gone and so are the heirlooms at our farmer's market downtown. What a lovely collection of different varieties and I'm going to keep my eye out for the Black Krim. The Cherokee purple is my favorite.

    Thanks for the shout-out on the recipe. I love your version and I'm crazy about your homemade vinegar. Here's to the garlic croutons too. Love the crunch they add.

  4. haha tomato porn...def the saddest part of the end of summer...the loss of the summer them...

  5. Loving that tomato porn, Vicki!! ;-)
    I have to admit to envy looking at those tomatoes and just imagining the taste.

  6. My tomatoes are done this year! So sad. I think I might be able to find some fresh ones still, though (not giving away my sources, though--ha!) Thanks for this wonderful post and recipe. :)

  7. First of all, many thanks, Sheila, for inviting me! When I sent you this post a week ago, we were sweaty and deep in summer. Now the weather has turned cool and I wish I'd given you all a more seasonal recipe. Ah, well.

  8. Vicki, I had to laugh at the tomato porn line. I've been accused of similar things in relation to cheese. Loved the passage and prose, and love gazpacho. Can't wait to try this with tomatoes fresh from our local grower!


  9. Tomato porn! LOL! Who would have thought that was a possibility?

    I have tomato envy. Our tomatoes are gone and we're thinking in terms of cool crops, like spinach.

    Your gazpacho recipe is delightful. Love that it's all garden fresh items. I'm making it next summer when cucumbers and tomatoes are plentiful again.

    ~ Krista

  10. Keeping this recipe for next year when I hope that I, rather than the rabbits and raccoons, enjoy my tomatoes.

  11. A lovely recipe to spotlight, and I'm enjoying your linked recipes, too, especially your Je Ne Sais Quoi Sandwich. This summer on the blog, Elizabeth/Riley introduced me to pimento cheese, which I had never encountered but my husband recalled his mother making. I whipped it up for him and sweet madeleine-esque memories ensued.

    Your gorgeous "tomato porn" prose did that for me. My Italian pop grew up on a farm. Every spring and summer, he made tending our backyard garden his passionate pastime. Thank you for helping me smell, taste, and envision it again.

    ~ Cleo

  12. Look forward to cooking some of the recipes. I canned tomatoes this Summer--first time for me and I loved it!!

    Tracy :)

  13. thing I've got is plenty of canned tomatoes, this should be a treat to try this winter! Tomato Porn? I've heard it all now! Great post Vicki! XO

  14. Losing these fresh delicious tomatoes might be the worst thing about summer's end. They have been so wonderful and we have eaten them every single day and more than once on most days.

  15. I, too, have popped over from Vicki's blog. Yes, I know I'm a little late to enjoy these tasty treats, but had such a good time reading the tomato porn and the wonderful ways to utilise them, so even though I haven't yet eaten my usual muesli and yoghurt breakfast, I'm lusting after these gloriously plump, ripe fruits! If I had any on hand, I'd dare to be different and eat tomatoes for breakfast instead!