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!
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
This past week we've had quite a heat wave in Seattle. I've been getting into the bakery early in the mornings so as to avoid the afternoon heat + hot oven combination, and it turns out the upstairs of our new house is quite a little hot box. I bought some aggressive blinds and a new fan and am hoping both will help cool things down a bit. The wool blanket is in the linen closet for the season, and Sam's been making iced tea like it's his job. Summer has arrived! A few nights ago, the thought of actually doing much real cooking seemed a bit overwhelming, so I figured it was time to dig out the ice cream maker and get to work. I'd wanted to do something with the beautiful strawberries we have in the markets right now, but it seems every time I get a little pint it's gone before I have the chance. They are just so incredibly sweet, and it seems a shame to do anything other than eat them right out of the container, preferably while sitting on the Moroccan picnic blanket you brought back from honeymoon on the lawn in your new backyard trying not to stress out about the incredible, insurmountable number of weeds. So. Many. Weeds. But cherries: somehow the bag of cherries made it safely through the weekend, so I set about to find a great cherry ice cream recipe.
When you have an eight month old baby, making social plans can be hard. Especially in the evenings. When I was pregnant, I read Bringing up Bebe and one of the big premises of the book is how the French feel strongly that babies and children can fit into your lives and that you shouldn't have to change and alter everything to accommodate them. I remember reading the book and thinking: YES! Life will be just as it was, except we'll have a small baby in tow. Obviously a few things would likely be different, but I didn't want to change our routines, change the way we cooked or approached time off together, or see our friends any less. Well of course I'm the fool. Or at the very least, I'm not as French as I thought I was. Today, we very much schedule things around Oliver's nap schedule and bedtime, but thankfully we have a lot of other friends with kids who get it. Friends who make homemade cookies, own ice cream businesses, and have really great taste in music. Friends who host the kind of occasion that warrants homemade hot fudge sauce and eating dessert first.
We're back! After a restful few days in Lake George, I ended up flying home while Sam spent a little time with his family in New Jersey and a few days in New York City by himself before taking the train all the way back to Seattle (a solid four day journey). If you know Sam, this isn't surprising; he loves trains. When he's gone, I quickly revert back to my single gal days of eating veggie quesadillas for dinner (over and over) and staying up working later than I'd like. We would talk on the phone often as Sam would narrate his very full days in New York City and the stops and layovers he had while on the train. After a few days of me lamenting the fact that I wasn't there to experience it all with him, he encouraged me to ditch the quesadillas and do something special for dinner. See a movie. Go to the museum for just an hour. In short: I needed to get better at dating myself.
I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I'd been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I'm honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara's book and pulled out a few peaches I've had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away -- having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up.