This time of year, one of my favorite things to do is count the tomatoes on my countertop.
From the garden this morning I collected six Husky Red Cherries, two nice Celebrities, and two orangey Old Germans. Living with them on the counter is also one big red guy from the "Texas Tomatoes" bin at Central Market (I suspect it's a Celebrity or Carnival). Even though I know I have a virtually limitless supply of tomatoes this year, I can't walk past the bin without buying a couple. Because, what if the five plants in my garden and the thousand plants at the farm die?? I should secure alternative tomatoes, just in case. And from the farm, five beautiful Yellow Perfections and fourteen little Golden Nuggets. I stow them in an assortment of cute bowls on the counter and visit multiple times a day to smile down at them and count again. I don't know why... it just makes me happy.
Farmer Pop and I have been busting our sweaty humps out at the farm (exactly one year old today - happy birthday, little farm) and yes, we really do have about a thousand beautiful tomato plants. Eight varieties in all, from little bitty red Sweeties to gnarly giant Beefsteaks. I spent the better part of yesterday morning scooting along the tomato rows in the sunshine, gently encouraging the plants up into the twine support lines, basking in the perfume of their leaves and grinning like a filthy, sweaty idiot. Every once in a while I'd stumble upon a ripe one and snag it for Quality Control. Yes... sweet, delicious Quality Control.
This is another lovely recipe from Susan Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. As you could guess, this is featured smack dab in the middle of the "Summer" section, and involves no cooking whatsoever. I made it for the first time last year with gorgeous bright yellow tomatoes from the farmer's market (and used the Yellow Perfections here), but I'm sure any color of garden or farmer's market tomato would do, with "garden or farmer's market" being key. This is not a recipe to be made with the plastic tomatoes from Albertson's in February. You must have fabulous tomatoes, or you must make something else. You may not have tomatoes yet where you are, and if not, I pity you. But there have to be some benefits to living in Texas, and two seasons of tomatoes is a bigass one for me, possibly the biggest... well, probably the biggest.
I'm not sure what I finally did right, but I also have fantastic cucumbers in the garden this year too, so the majority of this recipe is self-grown. YEYA. I went out to pluck some cilantro but apparently it has bolted beyond the point of consumption, so I substituted still-gorgeous Italian parsley and it was perfectly great. How are your gardens? What have you been cooking from them?
~ 3/4 to 1 lb excellent garden or farmer's market yellow tomatoes
1 small cucumber, garden or farmer's market obviously preferable
1/4 a jalapeño (goofy, I know, but the original recipe called for 1/2 a jalapeño to serve 6, and this definitely wasn't hot at all so I'll use 1/2 to serve the two of us next time), seeded and diced
2 sprigs cilantro or Italian parsley, plus more for garnish
1 small clove garlic, chopped
2/3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red or orange bell pepper, finely diced
3 tbsp red onion, finely diced
few cherry tomatoes, halved
best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Set a pot of water to boil. Prep a medium bowl with ice cubes and water. Cut an "x" into the bottom of each of your glorious tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunge into the ice bath for a minute. Drain the tomatoes and pop the back into the bowl. Peel them over the bowl, saving all the juices - the skins should just slip off like in the picture above. Also remove the cores. Don't be concerned about mashing them up with your gorilla hands, they're about to get pureed. Pour the entire contents of the bowl, seeds and all, into the blender. According to Suzanne Goin, a blender is really preferable to a food processor here.
Chop off the ends of the cucumber, the bits before you reach the seeds, and dice them finely. Set aside. Then peel, seed, and coarsely chop the rest and chuck it in the blender with the tomatoes. Also add the jalapeño, garlic, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil. Pulse until everything has broken down, then puree the living shit out of it, until completely smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover, and tuck into the fridge to chill. I only had the patience to let mine go for an hour, but it was plenty chilly for me. The recipe calls for straining through a fine mesh sieve, but it is smooth and lovely and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it as is. You need the fiber, anyway.
Combine the finely diced cucumber with the orange bell pepper and red onion in a small bowl, and set aside. In the original recipe, this would be the amount of garnish for six servings, but I really like the texture contrast so I made the same amount and just divided it between the two servings.
To serve, ladle the soup into two chilled bowls and garnish with the cherry tomato halves, sprinkling of parsley or cilantro leaves, and the cucumber, pepper, and red onion mix. Drizzle with a spoonful of best-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
Serves two as part of dinner, four as appetizer. Takes about 20 minutes of work, then at least an hour to chill.