HeirlomTomats_Temescal

Photo courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Wondering how to make the most of all those luscious, juicy tomatoes in your kitchen or garden? Katy Vigil-McClanahan of the Capay Valley Farm Shop offers her recipe for gazpacho:

“Preparing to make my first gazpacho of the year, I uncovered a memory I’d almost forgotten. Fifteen years ago, I was visiting a friend who worked on a biodynamic farm in upstate New York. She came home with a flat of culled heirloom tomatoes. They had soft spots, splits, and some worm holes, and you could tell they weren’t long for this world. And it was just too hot to cook. I was sure they would all go to waste—and not before filling our kitchen with bugs. My friend, though, just plunked the flat down on the table and shouted, ‘gazpacho!’

“I recalled making gazpacho with my mom, and it was a one-blender deal. This was more of an eight-blender batch, but it was so good that four of us ate it up in two days. Or that’s how I remember it: My brother says the pigs got some as well.

“I have become opinionated about gazpacho in my old age. I feel it really has to have bread in it, and a little bit of hot pepper to wake the flavors up. Further, you’ve got to use good olive oil, as this is really just a salad in a blender. Lastly, it tastes better after it sits a few hours, so make it at breakfast if you can, for that night’s dinner. If you go light on the garlic, this is wonderful the next day. And even the next day after that, should you be so lucky as to encounter a flat of cull tomatoes.”

1–2 pounds tomatoes
1/2–1 pound cucumbers, peeled
4 small sweet peppers or 2 bell peppers
1 jalapeño, or cayenne pepper to taste
1–2 cloves garlic
2 slices sourdough bread (old bread is fine)
1/3 cup good olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I find balsamic vinegar is too strong here, but white wine vinegar would also work. Some people use lime juice.)
Water to thin
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the vegetables, including only as much jalapeño/cayenne as suits your taste (remove jalapeño seeds unless you like the heat). Tear the bread into pieces. Add everything to the blender including the olive oil and vinegar, but hold off on the water at first. Start with about 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Blend until smooth. Add water as needed to thin to a soupy (but thick) consistency. Taste, and add salt and pepper to your liking. Add a little more salt than you think it needs, since cold food needs more seasoning. You might also add more vinegar, if it suits you.

Chill in the refrigerator, ideally for 2-plus hours or overnight. If holding overnight, use the smaller amount of garlic, and add less hot pepper than you’d like, as the chile will release its oils into the soup over time. Serve with bread and cheese (or Spanish ham) for a complete and simple meal.