It’s another seriously hot day here in Napa! It looks like the high today is 102°, but if it’s like yesterday, it will probably get even hotter than that! I’m definitely not eating anything that takes any kind of heat to make, so since I’m out of high quality fish and meat and I don’t even want to think about crawling into my oven of a car, I think I’ll be making a gazpacho! It would be a great day for tartare or carpaccio, though… Tomorrow looks like another scorcher, so maybe I’ll be proactive and run out in the morning!
Clear heirloom tomato gazpacho is one of those deceptively easy gluten-free, raw, vegan, dairy free, out-of-this-world recipes that I get asked about pretty frequently. It looks so much more complicated than it really is! This is definitely one of those dishes that makes you look like you’ve been slaving away in some kind of molecular gastronomy lab, when the reality is that you put this together with nothing more complicated than a blender, a knife, and some cheesecloth!
The most important part of making this dish is simply getting the best ingredients that you can get your hands on. Every flavor here matters. There are no tricks and there is no hiding poor flavors. This gazpacho puts a spotlight on the quality of the food that you put into it.
For the tomato water (the tomato consommé, really), I like to use a mix of heirloom tomatoes, which really captures the fun and excitement of summer for me, but you can certainly use one kind if you prefer. You could do an amazing water drawing out the flavor of one specific variety of tomato. If you want to add herbs to the tomato mix, you certainly can, but you run the risk of making an unattractive color because the herbs could easily go brown when you blend them, and even if you do preserve the green, the color change can be unwelcome.
Tomato Water/Tomato Consomme
- 5# Tomatoes
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried chili flake
Prepare a fine strainer. I use 2-3 layers of cheese cloth or a very clean thin and white kitchen towel draped over a strainer with lots of edge hanging over. You will almost certainly wreck this towel, so I recommend the cheesecloth! Place the strainer in a large bowl to catch the liquid. Ideally, you would tie and suspend the cheesecloth over the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
Core and roughly chop the tomatoes and toss into a blender with the salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Blend thoroughly, at least 2 minutes.
Pour the tomato mix into the cheesecloth that is draped over the strainer. Gather the edges to seal the cloth, tie, and (if you can) suspend the cloth over your bowl (feel free to remove the strainer) in your fridge overnight. If you can’t suspend the bag, leave it in the strainer, making sure that there is enough room between the strainer and bowl to collect the liquid. If you leave the cloth and tomato mix in the water, it won’t drain.
The next day, remove the cloth with the pulp and taste the liquid for seasoning. Adjust if necessary, remembering that adding chili flake or pepper will color the liquid. Even adding salt can cloud your tomato water, so remember that you can (and should!) garnish your vegetables with a good sea salt.
Ingredients: (enough for at least 4 small bowls)
- 1 Cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandolin (I used English cucumber here, peel it if you want to make the dish a little more classically fancy)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2-3 radishes, thinly sliced on a mandolin (keep in cold water if not using right away)
- 1 pinch good quality salt (I used Maldon)
- 1 pinch Espellete chili
- Basil Oil, for garnish
- Radish or basil flowers, small leaves, or microgreens for garnish
Individually plate bowls/cups with the vegetables, flowers, a few grains of salt, and a dusting of chili. Pour consommé over and drip a small amount of basil oil into the liquid. The oil is a different viscosity that the consommé, so it will go ahead and form circles on its own. Just be careful and go slowly.
Alternatively, serve the consommé on the side to pour over table side. It’s a pretty cool presentation that way!