Field to Feast: Tomatoes & Zucchini

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!

Chemex Tomato Water | Minimally Invasive

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.

 

Field to Feast: Carrots

Every Saturday morning at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market, Kasha and I have essentially the same conversation:

“So, what should we post about this week?”
“I don’t know, what would you like to do?”
“Hmmm, let me think.”

The sides change, but that’s pretty much how it goes every week. So I can honestly say that I just strolled around until I saw a pile of gorgeous carrots and knew I’d found our topic. Sometimes it isn’t about having a great recipe ready to go (though sometimes it is), but about inspiration and beauty.

As I’ve been doing for about a month now, I chopped off the carrot tops and put them in a vase on the table to serve as a makeshift centerpiece. The only time I ever cook with carrot greens is when I use them in a gumbo z’herbes, so this is a good way to use what I buy and decorate at the same time. And I just love the Sideshow Bob look of them.

Carrot greens on display | Minimally Invasive

I jotted down a few ideas for carrot recipes over the weekend, but nothing came of it until today, when I felt like gazpacho. I love spicy, savory carrot dishes and since it’s just a small step from Spain to Morocco, I added some Moroccan influences to my soup with harissa-spiked oil, preserved lemon and chopped cilantro. Many gazpacho recipes call for bread to lend the correct texture, but this was out for me from the very beginning for obvious reasons, so I substituted almond flour instead. It’s appropriate with the other flavors and so many classic gazpacho recipes use almonds that it seemed like the solution was always there, staring me in the face.

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho | Minimally Invasive

Instead of building the recipe from the ground-up, I based this gazpacho on a Martha Rose Shulman recipe from The New York Times, but changed it around quite a bit to suit my purposes. The harissa oil starts out very spicy, but mellows as the soup sits in the refrigerator, so don’t be too scared if you taste it right away and your tongue turns inside-out. Of course, I can’t guarantee it won’t turn blazingly hot after it sits overnight, but promise to let you know if it does.

Update: The flavors blended beautifully after an overnight stay in the refrigerator, but the gazpacho isn’t spicy at all. I’ll probably stir in a bit of the reserved paste to add a little heat. If you want it spicier without the added texture from the paste (which isn’t very smooth), just double the harissa recipe.

line1

This morning I woke up with an idea to offer free shipping on everything in my Etsy shop until 6pm ET tomorrow. (This offer ends 8/7/13, if you’re reading this post sometime in the future.)  I opened the shop a few months ago, but haven’t really pushed it beyond sticking a link in the top navigation of this blog and hoping you’d notice. So take a look around and let me know what you think. 8×10 is the standard offering, but I’m happy to go larger or smaller or to print photos from the blog that you like but don’t see in the shop. Just send me an email and we’ll work something out! (To get free standard shipping in the US only, apply code FREESHIPSUMMER in the cart at checkout.)

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot Gazpacho adapted from Martha Rose Shulman/The New York Times

1 1/2 oz. sliced onion
3/4 pound cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped,  about 3/4 lb.
2 sticks celery, coarsely chopped
2 large red bell peppers, coarsely chopped, about 3/4 lb.
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons harissa oil, recipe follows
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, chopped
1/4 cup finely ground almond flour
Salt to taste
1 cup ice water
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Put the onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside for 5 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Drain and rinse.

2. Working in 2 batches, blend all of the ingredients except cilantro in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and chill for a couple of hours before serving. Garnish each portion with chopped cilantro (and if you’re brave, a little of the leftover harissa paste) before eating.

Harissa Oil
2 teaspoons dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until garlic and spices are fragrant. Set aside to cool. Once cool, strain oil through fine mesh strainer into a cup, pushing on solids to release as much oil as possible. You should have two tablespoons of oil. Grind solids to a paste in a small food processor or in a mortar and pestle and reserve for another recipe.