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Recipe: Touch of smoke refines gazpacho

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    Tomatoes can be charred under the broiler before being pureed with cilantro, garlic and other ingredients for a refreshing soup.

Good tomatoes are summer’s bounty, but the very best ones can be round through September.

Whether you’re in the garden, observing hard green fruits turning color, or at the market, seeing flats of colorful tomatoes, it’s a thrill.

Small, medium and large heirloom varieties of all sizes come in many colors and have snappy names.

Cherry tomatoes may be tiny, fat and round, oblong or pear shaped, in red, yellow, orange and burgundy.

Traditional red slicers go by beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter, Moscow and Ferris Wheel, not forgetting Early Girl and Better Boy. A host of others (they number in the thousands), abound in rainbow hues.

A reminder, though: Even if a tomato has a fetching color, it may not be ripe. The so-called heirlooms grown in hothouses and found in supermarkets year round are often mealy and can give true field-ripened heirlooms a bad name. If the fruit is hard, it won’t be sweet — it must look, feel and smell ripe.

Great tomatoes are best enjoyed sliced, sprinkled with salt and nothing more. Then it’s time to move on to tomato salads and salsas. For sweltering days, however, nothing beats a gazpacho-like chilled soup.

I often make one using raw tomatoes, but if you have a grill going, charring the tomatoes adds a pleasant rusticity and a slightly smoky flavor.

Don’t light a grill just to make this soup — a broiler will work just as well. But you can also char the tomatoes while grilling something else, then refrigerate them and make the soup the next day.

It’s a simple matter of pureeing the tomatoes, charred skins and all, with cilantro, coriander seeds, a touch of garlic and a splash of vinegar. When chilled, the soup is exceedingly refreshing.

But to up the interest factor and make it a bit more substantial, I spoon in some quartered cherry tomatoes and a dollop of fresh ricotta or thick yogurt.

It is served in a soup bowl, but you may wonder: Is this a soupy salad or a salad-like soup? No matter — it’s cool, delicious and full of sweet, tomato flavor.

CHARRED TOMATO SOUP WITH CORRIANDER AND CILANTRO

By David Tanis

  • 3 pounds ripe red tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil, divided, and more to brush tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems (from 2 bunches)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, mixed colors, cut in quarters
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta or thick yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives, for garnish

Prepare a charcoal grill or light broiler. Remove cores from tomatoes and cut in half horizontally. Season with salt and pepper on both sides; brush lightly with oil.

Place tomatoes skin-side down on grill and leave for about 10 minutes, until skins are blackened and tomatoes have softened slightly. (Or place tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet skin-side up and broil 10 minutes.) Transfer to a large bowl.

Add garlic, cayenne, coriander seeds, cilantro, 2 tablespoons olive oil and sherry vinegar. Stir. Let mixture sit 10 minutes to allow flavors to marry.

Puree tomato mixture in blender or food processor. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, if desired. Thin with a little water if too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill well. (Soup will taste best if served within a few hours.)

Put cherry tomatoes in a small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss with another tablespoon of olive oil.

To serve, ladle soup into chilled shallow bowls. Top each with large spoonful of ricotta, then spoon cherry tomatoes over. Sprinkle with chives. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutritional information unavailable.

AND TO DRINK

Red wines go well with long-cooked tomato sauces, but dishes made with fresh tomatoes, even those charred over coals, go much better with whites, especially those with lively acidity and minimal oakiness.

That leaves many choices, whether a crisp albarino from Spain, or an assyrtiko from Greece, with plenty in between.

Italian whites would be great, including Soaves from the Veneto, vermentinos from Liguria and Etna Biancos from Sicily. Or try a dry white from southern France.

Sauvignon blancs from the Loire will work, too, so long as they are restrained. An array of bone-dry roses would be excellent, as would fino sherry.

— Eric Asimov, New York Times

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