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.
Somehow I never tire of strawberries and rhubarb. Every trip to the greenmarket means at least 2 quarts of strawberries and a few pieces of rhubarb. This week alone we ate 4 quarts (ATE not canned), and the week isn’t over yet. Remember there’s only two of us. I make sure I get some of the first strawberries I can find and probably end up with some of the last. For at least a month, when strawberries are bountiful, it’s like no other food exists.
What I love most about Spring is the range of weather. You can leave in the morning with a thin sweater, strip down to a sleeveless shirt at lunch and still need a light jacket as evening draws near. Along with the variety of clothing options, it creates food options as well. I’m not very likely to sit down to a rich winter strew filled with root vegetables. More so because I’m sick of carrots and parsnips. But I love that I can still enjoy a bowl of soup when the evenings still have a bit of a chill, accompanied by a light salad.
I needed green garlic for a recent recipe. A whole tablespoon of it. If you’ve spent any time at the markets lately, you’re probably well aware that green garlic isn’t sold by the stalk, let alone the tablespoon. So to fulfill my needs I purchased a bunch, used a quarter a stalk and was left with the rest. Green garlic isn’t something I cook with too often. I generally wait for garlic scapes, or for the most part use the bulbs alone. When I read somewhere that sauteing it over low heat resulted a cross between a light garlic flavor and caramelized onions, I couldn’t think of anything better than to stick in a soup. Considering potato leek soup is such a great success, how could subbing green garlic not be equally as awesome?
Most people fantasize about crisp asparagus, stalks of tender rhubarb or sweet, juicy strawberries as spring draws near. I might be the only exception. As soon as the weather starts to warm and greenmarkets gradually switch their produce offerings from cellared root vegetables and apples to bright greens that signal Spring is here to stay, I have only one thing on my mind: Garlic Scapes.