Sarah from Eat Mendocino came to dinner last week. She wrote about it here, so I won’t reiterate too much except to say that I helped her make pickles – her first canning process from start to finish – and I love that she described me as both artfully efficient and contagiously enthusiastic. I try!
It was really hot out – too hot to be canning really, but not much keeps me from that project – so I ended up skipping the stuffed tomatoes in favor of a refreshing gazpacho. This was a brilliant choice because most of the flavor comes from fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, which I have in spades right now thanks to tending two separate gardens.
If you’ve never made gazpacho (which is a cold tomato soup), it’s really easy and can be adjusted any which way. Here’s how I did it, plus some variation suggestions.
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
Ingredients I would have used if I had any that were produced in Mendocino:
- Lemon juice
- Black pepper
- Stale bread
The quantity of each ingredient depends entirely on what you have on hand and how much you want to make, but in general you want about 2:1 tomatoes to cucumber and any other vegetables such as zucchini, peppers, cauliflower, or eggplant. I’d avoid broccoli but I can’t explain why I feel that way. This is a particularly good way to use up zucchini since it adds volume and dulls the acidity and spiciness of all those tomatoes and garlic heads.
Chop everything into large chunks. Throw it all in the blender or food processor with some water and about 1/4 cup olive oil per batch (if you’re making a boatload, you may have to blend several batches). Also per batch: 1-4 cloves garlic depending on your taste preference, a little red onion if so inclined, about 1 TBSP lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. If you’re doing it the Spanish way, soak a piece of stale bread in water and throw that in there, too. It sounds gross but it gives it a lovely, smooth consistency. Some gazpacho is served chunky, but I prefer to blend mine until smooth and then add toppings for texture.
Chill for at least an hour, and preferably overnight. I topped ours with local Shamrock goat cheese and some chopped walnuts. I also tossed a few blackberries into mine, because what the hell? And it was a great flavor.
A popular variation uses watermelon and feta cheese. I highly recommend it.
Overall thoughts on feeding a locavore: I was a little panicked that I’d accidentally feed her something not grown or produced in Mendocino county, but it turns out I had tons of local food thanks to the garden and local products I already buy. Also, Sarah brought ingredients like olive oil, butter to cook the salmon backs in, and her own apple cider vinegar and pickling spices that Gowan had dried. The McFadden champagne I happened to have on hand (booty from Taste of Mendocino) was the cherry on top of it all – or should I say blackberry?