Simple Art Of Cooking: Local Tomatoes, Local Gazpacho

It’s just so easy to eat well in the summertime. Surrounded by farm fields, we have the finest produce available. Needless to say, ingredients are always superior in season. We are in peek tomato season and I am in love; I plan to work with tomatoes as often as possible.
Farmers and local gardeners are having a field day with tomatoes and the bumper crop can yield many fabulous recipes to enjoy. Gazpacho is nothing new but what is new is another take on the recipe that I had the pleasure of tasting at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks event in July. It is Beau Marchais restaurant’s zesty gazpacho with shrimp and reduced coconut milk garnish. The cold soup is sure to bring down the temperature with a kick. My basic tomato sauce with fresh summer tomatoes has been requested. Peeling tomatoes is not the chore you may think it is. Just drop them into boiling water for literally seconds and, after a quick dunk in ice water the peel will slip right off. How satisfying to marry the sauce with any of your pasta dishes. Double the recipe and freeze to bring back summer at any time of the year.
Don’t let those fragrant and juicy heirlooms go by without preparing a fabulous summer salad with them. Sliced multi-hued heirlooms with tons of herbs will more than satisfy. One of my favorite salads with heirlooms is roasted beets with heirloom tomatoes and sherry vinegar dressing from my book, Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End. Check it out; you’ll be glad you did.

 

BEAU MARCHAIS GAZPACHO WITH SHRIMP AND COCONUT MILK GARNISH
The coconut milk is reduced to give a sweet edge to the soup.
Yield: About 8 to 10 servings

2 1/2 pounds Roma or field tomatoes
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 small shallot roughly chopped
2 roasted red peppers, trimmed, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup canned tomato juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15 oz.) can coconut milk reduced by half*
1/2 pound small cooked shrimp, chopped coarsely

1. Cut a crisscross on the rounded tomato side and drop, in batches, into boiling water for 40 to 60 seconds according to their size. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. With the aid of a paring knife, slip off their skins, then slice and dice the tomatoes, and set aside.

2. Place the garlic and shallot in the work bowl of a food processor or blender and process to finely chop them. Add the prepared tomatoes along with the prepared roasted peppers, cucumber and process or blend to puree. Add the tomato juice, sherry vinegar, seasoning and olive oil and process and blend to mix. Taste for seasoning, transfer to covered container and refrigerate for several hours or preferably overnight.

3. Meanwhile, pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Watch this process carefully, adjusting heat as necessary, or the sugars in the milk will burn. Coconut will solidify on standing. When ready to serve the gazpacho it will be necessary to nuke the milk to a pouring consistency.

4. To serve, place a rounded tablespoon of the shrimp in the center of each soup bowl then pour in desired amount of gazpacho and drizzle with reduced coconut milk. Enjoy!

HEIRLOOM TOMATO SALAD WITH HERB DRESSING

A fresh summer tomato is the best there is and local is the key!
Serves 4 to 6

3 large multi-hued yellow heirloom tomatoes,                                             sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chiffonade of basil
2 tablespoons tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives

1. Arrange sliced tomatoes overlapping on a platter

2. Pour oil and vinegar into a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add herbs and stir to mix. Scatter the herb dressing over the tomatoes and serve.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
Have on hand to add to pasta, bean stews, pizza and an endless variety of dishes.
Yield: 3½ to 4 cups

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes or 1 can (2 lb. 3 oz.) plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons julienne of fresh basil leaves

1. Cut a small crisscross on the rounded side of tomatoes. Plunge several tomatoes at a time into a saucepan of boiling water for 40 to 60 seconds. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water. With the aid of a paring knife, slip off their skins. Halve tomatoes crosswise, hold in palm of hand, and squeeze gently to remove seeds. Slice, stack and dice,  and set aside.

2. In 3 1/2 to 4 – quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add shallots and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds longer, being careful not to brown. Add prepared or canned tomatoes with their liquid, if using tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix. Let simmer over medium-low heat with cover ajar about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove cover and cook at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes longer until some of the liquid has evaporated and sauce thickens slightly. Add herbs and stir to mix. Let cool, then transfer to a screw top jar and refrigerate or transfer to freezer-going containers for up to six months.

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