After a full week of eating tomatoes everyday, I needed a little break to let my poor mouth heal. Sorry about that. The few tomatoes I hadn’t used by the end of the week weren’t going to last much longer, so I turned them into tomato water. Which of course you’ve heard of because everyone’s making it, but with good reason: It’s addictive. Imagine the purest tomato essence in liquid form, perfectly delicious on its own, but also strong enough to stand up to, say, vodka. If I were able to get fresh horseradish anytime other than Passover, you’d better believe I’d be drinking Bloodies with infused vodka right now.
Generally, recipes suggest straining blended tomatoes through a cheesecloth or t-shirt-lined colander (without pressing on solids so the liquid stays clear), but I really hate dealing with the soaked cloth, so I tried something different. Behold, the Chemex strainer!
My husband, as previously discussed, is a huge coffee snob. Brewing coffee is the only thing he does in the kitchen, but he does it exceptionally well with the help of his Chemex. Sometime last year, he decided to try out the pourover filter to get more of the coffee oils in us and to keep all of that filter paper out of the landfill. It worked so well that I figured it couldn’t hurt to try with tomatoes. You can see in the picture that it did let a small amount of pulp through, but the clear tomato water was easily poured out, leaving the pulp behind in the Chemex. The size of the filter doesn’t allow you to make the tomato water in one go, but I’d certainly recommend this method if you don’t mind doing it in multiple batches.
The gazpacho was inspired by the knockout meal we had at Bent Restaurant during May’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which we’ve attended since 2009, save for one year. It’s the only comics festival I truly love, partly because of the airy feeling of the natural light-infused reference library, but mostly because I’m interested in a greater proportion of the artists there than at other festivals. (I discovered Nina Bunjevac‘s exquisite Heartless this year, nearly vomited with laughter over Lisa Hanawalt‘s My Dirty Dumb Eyes, met Michael Kupperman, whose work I’ve loved for years, and briefly hung out with Jaime Hernandez, who needs no introduction from the likes of me. And that’s just off the top of my head. So I encourage you to look into the 2014 show, and if you want to read a much smarter take on this year’s TCAF than I’m capable of writing, check out Tom Spurgeon’s thoughts on the subject.)
But back to food. Our past few trips to Toronto have involved dining at one or another of Susur Lee’s restaurants, but Bent might be my favorite yet. Everything served was fresh and exciting, with flavor combinations I hadn’t really experienced before. It’s impossible to apply the label “best” to a single item in the bento box Gil and I shared, but the one my thoughts return to most often is the oyster shooter, which I suspected was tomato water-based. Because I needed to know how Chef Lee works his magic, I ordered his two-volume memoir/cookbook and immediately looked up the dish. And yes, tomato water was the base! Yay for my working tongue! Newly inspired, I worked up a little gazpacho for lunch today.
Tomato Water Gazpacho inspired by/adapted from Chef Susur Lee
Mustard oil is only sold for external use in the US; evidently it makes a great massage oil. I found my bottle at Kalustyan’s, but any well-stocked Indian or Bangladeshi grocery should have the oil; it just won’t be shelved with the rest of the foodstuff. This is a good basic soup, but feel free to play with ingredients. I’m not a big fan of onion in my gazpacho, but thinly sliced green onion or diced shallot would play well here, as would celery, other colors of bell pepper, or even more tomatoes. Because you never can have too much of a good thing.
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cucumber, finely diced
1-2 hot chile peppers, finely diced
1 yellow summer squash, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 1/2 cups tomato water
2 tablespoons mustard oil
Salt, to taste
Sherry vinegar, to taste
For four appetizer servings, put one to two tablespoons of each of the diced vegetables (perhaps less of the hot pepper if you don’t want it too spicy) into four small bowls. Whisk together tomato water and mustard oil and pour over vegetables. Add salt and sherry vinegar to individual servings to taste.