This simple meal has comforted me in both kitchens home and away. When my friend and I backpacked through Europe after college (wow, almost a decade ago…) it because a staple of our diet anytime we had access to a kitchen, whether it was the communal “kitchen” of a hostel or our own apartment for the week. It was a dish that made us feel normal. For a few moments, we weren’t dirty travelers living our of our backpacks for the next 10 weeks, having picnics of bread, fruit and cheese from the local Aldi and saving up for real restaurant dinners when we could (not that it wasn’t great!). But it was the moments when we had access to a kitchen that were magical. When we could pretend that we weren’t moving every few days, but grounded, just for a few days. We dined on pasta, salads, soups and occasionally some chicken or beef. The meals were always simple as we had a limited pantry to work with, but somehow the zucchini over pasta was always a favorite.
While I have them, garlic scapes are showing up in everything, from my morning eggs, to my afternoon grilled veggie sandwich and especially dinner. Last year was all about the purees, mostly pesto and dips. This year, we roast. After discovering how garlic scapes transform from pungent, almost spicy garlic to a sweet and crunchy when they come in contact with a bit of oil, I was sold. For the most part I’ve been sauteing or roasting scapes and adding them to a dish. Stirring them into salads, topping burgers with them or mixing them into an omelet last-minute. However this time I was excited to cook with, not side by side.
I’ve never made gazpacho. I’m not even 100% convinced I really like it. But it’s a soup, and I love soup. And it’s socially more acceptable to eat in the summer compared to a rich cream of whatever vegetable blend. So it was settled. This year I would make gazpacho. But it couldn’t be a bland, ordinary version. I needed something different, something vibrant that would push me over the wall into “I love gazpacho” territory. For my husband’s birthday we dined at Traif for the first time. After what seemed like hours to choose our selection of tapas-style small plates, we were greeted by a sake glass filled with icy strawberry gazpacho. It barely touched my lips and I knew. I was making this soup.
Locavore living isn’t always easy. The bulk of our winter food consists of root vegetables, beans, grains, greens, frozen and canned stuff. We cheat a bit, mostly with stuff we wouldn’t be able to get around here anyway like citrus and avocados. But for the most part we try to live locally. So when spring arrives and the Greenmarkets start showing evidence of food other than cellared winter produce, you can imagine I get a bit excited. Too excited, maybe. I fill my bags with asparagus, ramps, lettuce and quarts of strawberries, completely ignoring how perishable some items are and there’s only two mouths to feed. I started canning for just that reason, to make sure we weren’t wasting things. Most meals use a little of this and a little of that, leaving me with odd quantities of produce left over, threatening to spoil. In the winter, all these things would easily be tossed into a kitchen sink stew, cooking on the stove or in the slow cooker for hours, maybe with some beef or sausage. However in the warmth of the summer, I want nothing like that. So my kitchen sink meals get a bit more creative.
I contradict myself all the time. I say food should be simple and easy, but then I spend three days cooking a single recipe. I guess what I really should be saying is food should look simple and effortless. There is nothing better than a just picked strawberry, still warm from the sun or a delicate bunch of baby lettuce you’re afraid you might crush by just holding it or a crisp asparagus stalk. But sometimes food does take a while to prepare, even if the end result doesn’t mirror the work. A less tender cut of meat braised for hours can taste just as rich and buttery as a simple grilled medallion of Filet Mignon. A rich tomato sauce or delicate broth needs to be simmered and reduced for hours to achieve layers and depth. My cooking style reflects the integrity of the ingredients, allowing them to shine through. Some meals take minutes while others take days. Luckily, this recipe is on the minutes side.