I could have been a California Girl. I’ll never forget when my parents told me that my father almost took a job in San Diego in the 1970s. Somehow it all made sense because I truly am a California girl at heart, at least when it comes to the weather. I live for spring and autumn. Where I live, winter is freezing and summer is too hot and humid, though I’ll take hot over cold any day. Last summer I visited California for the first time in years and was in awe of the weather as well as the beautiful, colorful produce everywhere. Endless fields of strawberries. Little stands on the side of the road selling bags of avocados for almost nothing. They have local fruits and vegetables all year long. We only have them in DC for part of the year and I will always resent this, knowing I could have been a California girl. The good news is that with the arrival of warm weather I can now hang out at the local farmers market and work on my modest backyard garden.
Earlier this year I teamed up with Ziploc to take part in a series of culinary challenges as part of their Fresh 180 program. For the final challenge they’ve asked me to embrace my inner farmer and grow my own dinner. I love this idea. This will be my third summer of gardening and so far there have been both hits and misses. But there’s something incredibly gratifying about growing my own food. And believe it or not Ziploc products are actually very useful for gardening. I use their containers for storing seeds and extra plant food. The produce bags are useful for keeping the vegetables fresh if I don’t use them immediately.
After learning about this challenge I immediately wanted to make a roasted tomato gazpacho. I love making unusual gazpacho recipes. All of these ingredients can be found at my local market or in my backyard if the garden is doing well. Last year I had great success growing tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and basil, all of which are key ingredients in this recipe.
A word of advice about this gazpacho: I highly recommend letting the soup chill overnight before serving it. It tastes like a completely different soup after the ingredients have had a chance to sit together and blend. It’s definitely worth the extra time!
- 10 medium tomatoes
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small head of garlic
- 1 large or 2 medium shallots
- 1 medium red pepper
- 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled
- ¼ cup packed fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt, plus extra for vegetables
- 1 teaspoons black pepper
- optional garnish: finely diced cucumber, shallot and red pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Slice tomatoes in half, toss with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Remove the excess outer layers of skin from the garlic. Carefully slice off the top of the head so that the cloves are exposed. Place the head in a ramekin and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Cover with foil. Next, slice the root end from the shallots and peel away the skin. Place in a separate ramekin, drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Place both ramekins in the center of the prepared baking sheet and spread the tomatoes out evenly around them, cut side up. Cook the tomatoes, garlic and shallots together for one hour, then allow them to cool. Once the garlic has cooled, squeeze the roasted cloves out of their skins (discard the skins).
- Turn the oven up to 475 degrees F. Coat the red pepper lightly with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning it after 15 with tongs and then checking it every 5 minutes or so. Turn the pepper as the skin blackens. After 30 minutes remove it from the oven to cool. Once it has cooled, peel away the skin and discard the seeds.
- Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them. Chop the cucumber into smaller pieces.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and shallots to a sturdy blender, including all juices and olive oil from the pan and ramekins. Add the roasted red pepper, cucumber and basil. Puree until very smooth. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper and puree. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Strain the soup through a food mill, chinois or fine mesh strainer. Allow to chill overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors have a chance to blend. Before serving, top with garnishes if using.
Disclaimer: I was paid to develop a recipe for the Ziploc® Fresh 180 program. As always, all opinions are my own.