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.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.