I call this time of the year, this month of September, the “bridge month.” When I made pies for a living, I called them “bridge desserts,” those slices of jammy sweets that’d have one foot definitively in fall and the other stubbornly in summer. That’s always how I feel come September: eagerly anticipating the changing light of the new season, but also so very hesitant for the long days to creep away. And so, today, a warm weather recipe we can all nurse for a good month more: a silky, simple gazpacho that we had for lunch (and dinner) many times last month. And given our amazing tomatoes this year, I’m hoping for a few more rounds.
I went many years without making gazpacho at home; I always find that it falls into one of three camps: the good, the bad, or the ugly. And most recipes I found in the past were firmly up for Ugliest Gazpacho of the Year Award — which wouldn’t matter if they were really delicious, but that was never the case. Now how could you mess up gazpacho, really? I find that the recipes that call for bread blended into the soup always end up murky and off-color, and just not at all appealing. I don’t particularly love a lot of onion blended into the soup itself, and I’ve seen a great many recipes that are heavily spiced with chile seasonings and it always baffles me as to why we can’t just let the tomatoes shine. If you’re buying ripe, in season tomatoes you need little else.
This recipe recognizes that. The tomatoes sing here. Now, I didn’t make this recipe up — I can’t claim this baby as my own. Instead, it’s a recipe I discovered on Molly’s blog, and Molly got it from our mutual friend Keena. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had the soup made my Keena herself, but she talks about it often and I always kind of passively listened to her sing its praises thinking it was just “her thing” and it was probably, like most other gazpachos,” in the Ugly or Bad Camp … but it turns out, this is no such gazpacho.
This recipe is really the color of whatever tomatoes you’re using. Keena mentions she likes to use a few yellow ones to mellow out the color, and I took her lead with these heirloom beauties I got from my farmers market neighbors, One Leaf Farm. The soup itself has an amazing creaminess (despite a lack of dairy) thanks to the generous time in the blender — Molly and Keena both recommend leaving the blender running as long as you can really stand the noise to get the silky texture. Personally, I prefer my gazpacho on the chunky side, so I added additional chopped cucumber and bell peppers at the very end, and topped the soup with a generous spoonful of diced avocado (a move I learned from Comforts, the Marin restaurant where I used to work). We serve it with crackers, bread and cheese for a light dinner — and it makes a spot-on lunch any day of the week.
So I hope it’s not too late in the season for you all to get excited about this recipe. I assure you, it’s a keeper. And it may be a bit until I’m back here with a new recipe, to be honest. We get married in one week! Sam picked up his mom at the airport last night; we’re painting signs and making seating charts and assembling favors and spray painting baskets. There’s still A. Lot. To. Do. but it’s starting to feel so real and we can’t wait to celebrate next weekend with our nearest and dearest. I’ll be back here, at the very least, with a few photos to share. Wish us luck! Make gazpacho! Hold onto the bridge month for as long as you can!
Keena’s original recipes calls for sherry vinegar but I’ve used red wine vinegar here instead because it’s what we had on hand. I think either will work famously for you. And the finer you chop the vegetables you fold in at the end, the better.
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Score an “X” into the bottom of each tomato, and then blanch them until the skin begins to peel back around the “X.” Remove from the water, cool them until they’re not too hot to handle, and then peel. Remove and discard the stems, and cut out the rough spot where the stem attaches. Chop coarsely.
Put the olive oil in a blender, and blend on high speed until frothy. Add the garlic, and process briefly. Add the peppers, cucumber, a couple pinches of salt, and as many tomatoes as will fit comfortably into your blender. Process on high speed, stopping the blender from occasionally to move around the ingredients as needed to allow the blender to run smoothly. (The mixture will be fairly thick until the tomatoes are pureed.) Let the soup process for 1-2 minutes (or as long as you can stand the noise); the longer it goes, the creamier it will be. Add 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and process to incorporate. Taste, and add vinegar and salt as needed.
Fold in additional diced peppers and cucumbers and chill before serving.
Top with diced avocado, and enjoy!
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.