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What I’m going to say in just a few sentences may upset some of you. But please keep reading. Because this story has a happy ending.
Here it goes. For most of my life, I didn’t like tomatoes. For you die-hard tomato lovers out there, this may be tough to stomach. But let me explain.
Growing up, my family was never big into eating tomato salads or soup like some families are. We didn’t grow tomatoes in our garden, and didn’t consider them a staple in our kitchen. For years I tried over and over agian at potlucks and church picnics to become friends with the tomato and basil salad or the fresh salsa and chips. But something about tomatoes—the jellyish seeds and often mealy texture—turned me off by the second bite.
One summer, a neighbor gave our family a cherry tomato plant and urged us to give it a try. Just give it water, she said, and you’ll have more tomatoes than you know what to do with in a few months.
Sure enough, by mid July our tiny tomato plant had nearly tripled in size and was heavy-laden with red orbs no bigger than the tip of my thumb. After hesitantly trying my first tomato that summer—which I was sure that I would quickly spit out—I found myself stunned. Had I just eaten a piece of candy or a tomato? The subtle tang and crisp pop of the fruit bursting in my mouth quickly had me grabbing more sun-sweetened tomatoes by the fistfuls.
That summer marked the beginning of my love affair with tomatoes. Slowly I began to branch out from the candy-like cherries into the world of heirlooms at the farmers’ market along with sweet Romas, hearty beefsteaks, and even tart green tomatoes. While I’m still not the one to take a bite of tomato as if it were a peach or eat an entire plate of thick slices topped with shredded basil, tomatoes have certainly worked their way into my kitchen as a staple to use everyday in salads, pastas, casseroles, sauces, condiments, and soups.
Being the gems of summer, tomatoes are essential to many of my warm-weather recipes. Including this gazpacho. If you love a ripe and juicy tomato, you’re going to love this chilled soup. And if tomatoes haven’t won your heart over just yet, still give this a try and see what you think. You never know. This recipe may be the one what transports you into the world of tomato bliss.
Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho – serves 4 as a first course
1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, and “flattened” with the palm of your hand
1 medium red onion, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 1/2 – 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise on the equator line and lightly squeezed to remove watery seeds
A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 garlic clove
3 tbs. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium. Brush bell pepper, onion slices, and tomatoes with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a few big pinches of salt and pepper. Grill the bell pepper and onion for 8 minutes, turning once halfway through, or until dark grill marks appear. Remove to a plate to cool.
Grill tomatoes, cut side down, until lightly charred—about 6 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool.
Once pepper and onions have cooled, roughly chop them into big pieces. Gently peel away the skins of the tomatoes and discard. Transfer half of the soft tomato pulp to a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Add half of the chopped grilled pepper, half of the chopped grilled onion, garlic, vinegar, and water. Process until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add remaining tomato pulp, grilled peppers and onions, and parsley to the now empty food processor. Pulse until coarsely pureed. Stir the coarse puree into the smooth puree. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Chill for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours before serving. Taste again after the soup has chilled, adding more salt and pepper or red wine vinegar for tang if needed. Serve cold.
And the winner is...
I randomly drew the winner on Wednesday night for my Organic Valley giveaway. Congratulations to Iris from The Daily Dietribe! Thanks to all the rest of you who entered…this was my first giveaway here at DB, but I’m so looking forward to doing more in the future!