Changing Course Mid-Stream
Ever get an idea for your next meal, then get into the kitchen and decide it just isn’t quite the right fit for your mood? Well, it happens to me fairly regularly. For instance, last week I got an abundance (when I say “abundance”, I mean practically a whole bushel!) of heirloom and conventional tomatoes that were left over from Weavers Way’s and Flat Rock’s tables at Headhouse.
I made a small dent in the bucket through the course of the week by having plenty of salad each night and slices of tomato alongside my daily breakfast omelet. But by Thursday I could see I wasn’t going to make it to the bottom of the pile before they started to disintegrate. I remembered Deb at Smitten Kitchen having a delicious looking cream of tomato soup recipe and fancied trying that.
I was in the process of juicing the tomatoes when my friend Christine called. Now, mind you, she and I have a long history of volleying recipe ideas back and forth. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that by the end of our phone conversation, she’d got me all psyched to try a new gazpacho recipe that certainly seemed more appropriate for the heat of summer than the hot tomato soup and grilled cheese combo I’d originally planned.
So I made a few adjustments and went out on a limb by combining Deb’s roasting technique with a basic gazpacho recipe I’ve used over the years, finishing it all off with some diced avocado and cayenne pepper, which was the new twist Christine suggested. Thus it is that this post’s recipe is a truly collaborative effort. It has also been tweaked from what I did to account for the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.
Deb’s roasting method included brown sugar sprinkled over the tomatoes before they went into the oven, which gave them an amazing caramelized flavor. However, in this gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes, it proved too sweet so I’ve left it out of the final recipe. If you were to make this soup when tomatoes are not at their peak of perfection, the sugar would likely once again be a good addition.
When all said and done, whatever direction you take with it, this soup is very flavorful and much richer than traditional gazpacho. You may wish to add less cream and more broth for a lighter rendition. This soup is a good accompaniment to fish or quesadillas.
I also couldn’t resist the urge to once again use an ingredient as a serving vessel, dishing out the soup in the leftover avocado skins. Granted, this wouldn’t be a effective if you’re serving more than two people. The gist of it all is to not be afraid to play around with this cold soup – if you haven’t tried cold soup before, ’tis the season as all the fresh ingredients that are so imperative to good gazpacho are now on hand.
Roasted Tomato and Avocado Gazpacho
5 large heirloom or 8 regular tomatoes
1/2 c. vegetable broth
3/4 c. heavy cream
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 c. corn kernels
juice of one lemon
1 T. cilantro or tarragon, finely minced
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
generous pinches of salt and pepper to taste
1 T. extra virgin olive oil to garnish
Bring pot of water up to boil. Quickly submerge all the tomato (except the one to be diced) in the boiling water for 30 seconds and remove. Allow to cool slightly before slipping off the skins.
Preheat the oven to 400 F and place a strainer in a larger bowl. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. Begin juicing the tomatoes by squeezing them gently with your hands, working over the strainer. Be sure to get out all the seeds and then place the juiced tomato on the baking sheet. When all the tomatoes are juiced, set the bowl of juice aside and slide the tray of tomatoes into the oven. Roast until tomatoes are dark and relatively dried out, about 30-45 minutes depending on how well juiced they were.
Remove tomatoes from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes (you can also let them sit overnight if you’d like). In a blender, add roasted tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, vegetable broth, and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Place mixture in large bowl and add diced avocado, tomato and corn. Stir and add minced herb and cayenne pepper. Taste and readjust the salt and pepper if needed. Gently stir in the cream until you reach your desired consistency. Taste again and adjust seasonings some more if needed.
Chill soup for at least an hour to let flavor marry and to remove any heat remaining from the roasted tomatoes.
To serve, dish up the soup and top with some diced tomato, corn, and/or avocado. Sprinkle on some minced herb and drizzle extra virgin olive oil to finish.