Monday, July 12, 2010

Canned Tomatoes: Gazpacho and Bloody Mary

I love tomatoes.  I love eating them raw, like an apple.  I remember eating big, red tomatoes from my parents' garden, where you could smell the sunshine and the vine from where it came.  You know that tomato-vine smell? Love it!  One of my favorite things to do is, when the weather is warm, drop by the grocery store on the way home and buy a pint of cherry tomatoes and just eat 'em all. 

Sadly, I don't have a garden of my own, and really great garden tomatoes are scarce and expensive on the East Coast.  And since I love cooking with tomatoes year-round, I've also fallen in love with canned tomatoes.  I think canned tomatoes are great--picked when ripe (hopefully), and definitely the better choice over the pink anemic mushy things they call tomatoes during the off-season.  I am known to eat them straight from the can. I know, I'm disgusting. 

One thing I love to make with canned tomatoes during the summer is gazpacho.  Or, I should say, a tomato soup in the gazpacho style, because this recipe is based on nothing authentic.  If I made this with fresh tomatoes from the farmers' market, it would be a $40 gazpacho or something.

For the "gazpacho" (this makes a lot of servings--like, 8-10):
  • two 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • one 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 4 small Persian cucumbers (or half of English hot house cucumber--you could probably use Kirbys as well, but I would seed those first), chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 small or medium shallots, very finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • about 3 TBS of red wine vinegar (I'm sure I'm probably supposed to use sherry vinegar but I don't have that. I threw in a little balsamic as well)
  • about 2 TBS olive oil

In a bowl or measuring cup, mix together vinegar and oil.  Since I'm pretty shoddy with measurements, please do this to your own taste.  Place shallots in mixture, let sit for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I'm a fan of softening any allium in a sauce mixture first before serving raw, just to take the bite off.  

Puree tomatoes (with canned juices) and tomato sauce in blender.  You could buy already pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes if you don't have a blender or food processor, but I have this weird hang-up about buying them whole because I think they taste better.  The already pureed ones taste a wee bit watery and the diced ones have a tougher texture--but I would totally use them if I were feeling lazy or did not have the right equipment.

The inaugural use of our wedding gift blender

Throw in bell peppers (I used one orange and one yellow, not pictured below), cucumbers, and vinegar mixture with shallots.

You may want to just add part of the vinegar mixture to start, as you can add more later.  Stir well.  I added a pinch of salt as well, but just a pinch because there is plenty 'o' salt in the canned tomatoes.  Season to taste--use more olive oil or vinegar as you like.

Ta-da! Next time, I might use more cucumbers and bell peppers.  Trust me, you want them as refreshing crunchy bites to cut through the acid and salt of the tomatoes.

I had another can of tomatoes (wasn't sure how much I would need for the recipe), and since I lack storage space, I made a bloody mary for myself. Yum.  These ingredients are all to taste, but I would say you will probably use more celery salt and worcestershire sauce then you think you need.  These are the basics:
  • Whole canned tomatoes, pureed well
  • Jarred horseradish
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Celery salt
  • Vodka

Mix together and season to taste (I know, so specific).  For one drink, I tend to do just one dash of the tabasco, a few dashes of the W sauce, almost a tsp of the horseradish, and almost a tsp of the celery salt.  But seriously don't trust me on that because I have no idea how much I actually used.

Ta-da! That's a sad little stick of celery.

To go along with the "gazpacho", I made some potatoes.  I totally made up this recipe, so seriously there is no method to it and is kinda haphazard.
  • about 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, sliced to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • smoked paprika
Take sliced potatoes, put them in a microwave-safe bowl with a few TBS of water, cover with wet paper towel, and microwave for about 10 minutes (or until cooked through), stirring once or twice.

I know, I know, you think I cheat by using the microwave. I don't care.  I do this for almost all my vegetables.  I get 'em nice and soft in the microwave, and then roast them (or in this case, saute them) for a crispy outside.  I used to always manage to dry out and burn the outsides of my vegetables when trying to cook them all the way through in the oven, so I now use the microwave method.  Alternately, you could also boil the potatoes in salted water until they were cooked through (be careful not to overcook).

Place garlic and generous amount of oil into skillet (enough to generously coat bottom).  Turn heat to medium high.  I like putting the garlic and oil into a cold pan so they can slowly cook together and the garlic flavor infuses into the oil without me worrying about burning the garlic.  Before garlic browns, remove garlic.

Carefully place as many potato slices as you can fit.  There should be a healthy sizzle.  I sprinkle on some salt at this point.  Turn when golden on one side, anywhere from 2-4 minutes on each side depending on your level of heat.  Flip and brown on other side (sprinkle some more salt).  Depending on the number of potatoes you have, you may have to do several batches.

After slices are browned on both sides, remove to plate and sprinkle generously with paprika.

The next time I do this, depending on how I feel, I might replace the sauteeing with roasting them in a shallow baking dish at 450 degrees for a few minutes, flipping, and roasting again.  Babysitting the potatoes in the skillet took some effort, although I have to say it was TOTALLY WORTH IT.



  1. I think that smoked paprika on potatoes is a genius combination.

  2. I've never made gazpacho before, but I think I can handle it. And, I love a good bloody mary. Nice and spicy!!

  3. We're so used to doing pre mixed bloody mary but I must try this instead! You are such a good cook. Cook me something.

  4. wait a minute. is that a hunk of taleggio I see in the back there??? shouldn't THAT be the focus of this post??