Loving the brightness of the red onions against the muted carrots and greens
Summer gives me food anxiety. Every time I go to the market, not matter if it’s been a day or a week, there’s something new. I’m now spotting peaches, apricots, sweet corn, hot peppers, lemongrass and so much more. The pressure of wanting to buy everything, knowing that there is only so much my husband and I can consume before it starts to spoil is almost too much to handle. Winter’s easy. There are a finite amount of greens and root vegetables to choose from, plus shelf stable items, making it easy to create a menu. But summer meals are based off what looks good. It’s very hard to narrow down a dish when everything looks so good.
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.
Strawberries when ripe are impossibly sweet. Sample a fresh strawberry, from a farm stand or better, right off the bush and you’ll wonder why you’ve been settling for the out of season ones all winter long. Attempting to grow strawberries in New Jersey growing up was a failure. Apparently the local wildlife was also pretty keen on fresh strawberries so if we wanted to have any for ourselves, we’d have to pick them slightly under ripe. Otherwise there would be nothing left.
The first time I had a real fresh strawberry was in Ireland. We were staying with my stepfather’s family in Newcastle and there was a farm stand on one of the main “highways”. Really it was a small table with some boxes of strawberries on a long country road. Purchases were by the honor system. You’d grab a small container and leave the money in the box beside it. If you went at daybreak the table would be overflowing, but just a few hours later the table would be bare.
Sorry, it took me a while to get this one up. Our Greenmarkets are still abundant with the last tomatoes of the season. As a bonus, they’re pretty cheap. Sure, some aren’t the prettiest, maybe a little bruised, but still tasty and perfect for sauce. Earlier this summer I put up chopped tomatoes. I probably should have just stuck with those. A few weekends ago I bought another two half bushel baskets of tomatoes from the Fort Greene Greenmarket with intentions of making sauce. I was excited because the sauce involved no peeling, rather I would cook the tomatoes down, then push them through my food mill to remove the skin. You could seed them as well in the beginning, but I have nothing against seeds. So what I thought might be less work turned out to be a lot messier and took a long time.
I’m super picky about fish. In fact I never even liked the stuff until I was in college. As a child I had fish sticks and flounder (usually frozen) that my mom would force down my throat. In college, in order to introduce me to sushi, he literally shoved a piece into my mouth when I wasn’t paying attention. It was pretty good, really good actually. So for a while, I only ate raw fish, still nothing cooked.