Greetings eaters and readers! What’s for dinner tonight? Here in New York, we’re still in the grips of a stubborn heat wave, which means the blender has essentially replaced my oven — I’ve been making smashed pea toasts on repeat, cheffing up some chilled soups (more on that below), and as we speak, I’m soaking some Rancho Gordo chickpeas, later to be whirled into green hummus (page 164 The Weekday Vegetarians) then served with last week’s avocado crispy caper salad. (You don’t need me to tell you that your favorite store-bought hummus would be a fine stand-in here, especially when you hack it.) In other news: Locals! Inspired by those mini NYC itineraries I wrote up a few weeks ago, I finally motivated to update my six-year-old Food Guide to Westchester. It’s broken into two parts — “Where I Dine” and “Where I Shop” — and I really hope you’ll learn a thing or two if you live in the area. And now, for the rest of you: Your Weekly Trifecta…
1. Strawberry-Tomato Gazpacho
I feel like I could write a whole book called The Impatient Person’s Guide to Cooking with Tomatoes (or maybe 101 Things to Do with Mediocre Tomatoes?) because even though my beloved heirlooms and cherries are at their best for barely a few weeks a year, I buy tomatoes all year long with an optimism that could only be diagnosed as clinically delusional. The good news is that mediocrity can be the mother of invention (isn’t that the saying?) and can result in perfectly wonderful tarts and salads, both of which bank on tomatoes roasting down to their sweet, concentrated essence. But what happens when you are on Day 8 of a heat wave and cranking the oven is simply not an option? That’s where I found myself on Saturday, having scored a few baskets of good-not-great cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market and craving that smooth, Seville-style gazpacho that you’ve heard me rave about many many times in this newsletter. This time, I decided to deploy a trick I once saw on a fancy hotel menu: I whirled some strawberries into the blender with the rest of the produce. Not too many of them — Andy: “I don’t want dessert” — but just enough to steer the blend towards a tart-sweetness. I topped with minced cucumber and strawberries (plus offered feta on the side) and served with crusty bread and a big green salad. Summer dinner: Nailed.
Adapted from The New York Times. Makes 4 large bowls; 8 small cups
2 pounds tomatoes (skins on; I used cherry tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
2 medium cucumbers, 1 seeded and roughly chopped; 1 seeded and diced
1 small bell pepper (green or cubanelle)
1 small onion or shallot
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
4 or 5 shakes of hot sauce, or to taste
1-2 ounces feta, crumbled or cut into small cubes (optional; omit if vegan)
freshly ground black pepper
Combine the tomatoes, 1 cup of the strawberries, roughly chopped cucumber, pepper, and onion in a blender and process on high speed until emulsified, about one minute. Add vinegar, salt, and olive oil, and process another 30 seconds. Taste to make sure it’s the right balance of sweet and acidic. (This will vary depending on the flavor of your tomatoes.) Stir in more vinegar if you think it needs a little brightness, then stir in the hot sauce. Top with feta, diced cucumber, the remaining chopped strawberries, and a few grinds of black pepper.
2. Pimm’s Cup for Summer Nights
Andy came home the other night going on and on about his Pimm’s Cup, the cocktail that was being served at a work event. Had I ever had one? I thought so, until he showed me a photo (very similar to this one) at which point I realized that I would never forget drinking something so unapologetically summery and festive. Naturally, we set to work correcting this void, researching different ways to make a round for our weekend selves. The quintessential low-alcohol summer drink, a Pimm’s Cup appears to be the kind of thing one might sip at a garden party or at Wimbledon, where it is apparently the “official unofficial cocktail of the event.” The drink is, in fact, ridiculously simple. It starts with Pimm’s, a gin-based liqueur, but it ends soon after, with your choice of a fizzy lemon variation — some recipes call for lemon soda, some for lemonade, some for ginger ale with freshly squeezed lemon juice. (We opted for the last.) As for the garnishes, my favorite part, Andy gave me one instruction: “It should look like a farm.” How fun is that?
Makes 1 drink
2 ounces Pimm’s
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
garnishes: cucumbers sliced into thin rods, strawberry slices, orange slice, mint or basil sprigs
Fill a highball with ice. Add Pimm’s and lemon juice, then top off with ginger ale. Add garnishes as enthusiastically and ridiculously as you’d like, using the cucumber rods to gently mix everything together.
3. My New Favorite Host Gift
I visited my friends Jeni and Ben at their new house last weekend, and the day before, realizing I didn’t have a housewarming gift, ducked into the always reliable MoMA Design Store to see what I could find for them. Well, I scored this cantaloupe-sized Italian Ball Candle — I love how big and dramatic it looks in the middle of a dinner table — and now I’m coveting one for myself. If only I could decide which color is my favorite. P.S. Also comes in a smaller baseball-like size.
P.S. You + Me + Sicily?
Who wants to join me in Sicily next spring for an epic food adventure? Look out for more info in next week’s newsletter. If you are a paying subscriber, you’ll get a first look at all the details on Friday, July 29, if not sooner.
Thanks for being here! See you soon.
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You have grabbed my attention…summer, Sicily!
Strawberries and tomatoes…who knew they could combine and make such a beautiful colored soup? MoMA gift shop never disappoints! I will be dreaming of Sicily ….*swoon*!