I know I’m home when the weather is absolutely perfect, the canyons and beaches are lush, and I have a little dachshund following me around all day. This is home, and I miss it.
It is where I grew up and fell in love with fresh produce and being outdoors. Every time I’m back, I find myself wanting to stay. It’s a lifestyle and special space that truly caters to my heart, and now I’m here visiting, and healthy again in the kitchen I’m so proud to know, drawing inspiration from my beautiful home town of San Diego, California. And each time I come back, it resonates with me that I just cannot be stripped of the familiar air of San Diego, there is simply not a place in the world that can fill my inspirations and spirit the same way that it continues to do here. I am just incredibly lucky and appreciative to be able to come back to family whenever I may need to get away and disappear.
The other day a fellow blogger, Susan at Spoon and Shutter posted a wonderful recipe for a golden tomato gazpacho from the book “The Complete Kitchen Garden,” by Ellen Ecker Ogden.
I was inspired by this recipe. There was the addition of an orange, and it just looked divine, simple and fresh, and most definitely pastoral. I knew I wanted to make it or some version of my own.
And I did, I went to a local farmers market just a town away from where I grew up, and came across a barrel of tomatoes I was quick to jump on. They were long, thin, and pointy in shape, bright red with perfectly green spidery stems, and a little something unfamiliar within the familiar. I had seen them before.
I was curious, so I asked the vendor what particular variety they were and she exclaimed, “San Marzano’s.” I was trying to remain with some calmness here, but I couldn’t keep it inside. I was freaking out because I had never seen them fresh off the vine before, I think I made the woman’s day with excitement over her beautiful tomatoes and also with the spread I had just purchased in my visit.
As I was picking for these perfectly ripe fruits, I thought to myself, “oh but of course!” “San Marzano’s,” the Italian heirloom variety I’m always after when making delicious tomato sauces! Except they’re so not canned this time. Canned or not canned, they’re honestly the only tomato worth making a tomato sauce from, and here they still maintain their brilliant shapes that you typically see peeled in commercially produced cans imported from Italy and purchased for a premium.
Was it just me, or did I stumble into something rare at the market? And in my very hometown! Oh how inspiring a great farmer’s market can be right? This amazing Italian heirloom variety is a gift from the other side of the world, but with seeds planted and grown here in San Diego. I was cherishing them, it was a beautiful day to be home and to be inspired.
So with the recipe Susan posted, I did go off track a lot here, but it was all in the essence of that soup’s ingredients and pictures that made it an inspirational one. I decided to make a recipe of my own, one that is almost inside out, a San Marzano gazpacho with a handful of basil and the addition of some Valencia oranges. I took my favorite element of Susan’s recipe and favorite tomato at the market to make an intense variation. With the strong tomato flavor in the forefront, the sweet acid from the oranges, and the aromatic explosion from some basil, it makes for a heavenly refreshing pairing.
I’m a big fan of texture and “chunk,” so this soup needed to show off a little with some nicely diced summer vegetables and fruits to accompany the puree of San Marzano’s.
A few cucumbers, golden bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, “pinched off” orange supremes, intact pieces of diced avocado, a little red onion, some basil leaves, and a couple drops of olive oil and sherry vinegar. That will do it. I know it’s just a spread of some vegetables and fruits, but it’s a gorgeous and delicious one.
With the preparation of the San Marzano puree, I blanched these tomatoes to rid them of their skin, because they are thicker skinned than any average vine ripe variety. They are also slighty sweeter, less acidic, and carry fewer seeds. These characteristics are the reasons why chefs from all over the world come crawling, it’s the perfect base for their pizza, pasta, and soup necessities. And this variety of tomato is a definite necessity for those always tempting dishes. There’s just nothing that cuts close to their intensity in flavor or genetic makeup. I am so happy with my find and I think I’m going back in for more this weekend.
My fiance is flying out here in a few days and this little soup inspiration just might need to go on another date, and this next time with my D. I hope everyone is enjoying these last few weeks of summer and sharing in some explosively delicious heirlooms.
Vine Ripe San Marzano Tomato, Basil, and Valencia Orange Gazpacho
2 quarts San Marzano tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded (or 2- 28 oz cans)
3 Valencia oranges
1/2 small garlic clove
10 large basil leaves (or 1 bunch)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, roughly chopped
2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
2 Tb sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Garnish of Fruits + Vegetables
2 Valencia oranges, supremed (sliced wedges)
1 large Persian cucumber, small diced
1 large heirloom tomato, small diced
1/4 red onion, small diced
1 yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 avocado, small diced
2 Valencia oranges, supremed (sliced wedges), each wedge left whole or torn into pieces
2 Tb olive oil, for drizzling
Handful of basil leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and fill a large bowl with an ice bath, set aside. Have a spider or large slotted spoon on hand. With a paring knife, make small slits at the bottom of each tomato until they have all been scored. Once water is at a full boil, placing one cup of tomatoes into the water at a time, simmer them for about 20 seconds until their skins have loosened. Retrieve the tomatoes with a spider and set them into the ice bath, stopping the cooking process. Once chilled, remove from water and peel their skins with a paring knife and set aside. *If using canned tomatoes, omit this step.
In a food processor or blender, combine the blanched or canned tomatoes, the juice and pulp of two peeled oranges, 1/2 a small garlic clove, 1 cucumber, and basil leaves. Process until smooth. Next, add the sherry vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until mixture is emulsified. Season to taste until desired preference, adjusting sherry or salt ratio if needed. If needed or preferred, pass mixture through a fine mesh sieve to discard any remaining bits of basil to achieve smooth and even color. Reserve gazpacho in serving bowl for garnishing.
For the garnish, supreme wedges of two Valencia oranges and small dice the cucumber, tomato, onion, bell pepper, and avocado. Place each in separate bowls to be able to control desired amounts. When serving, place a variety of cut vegetables at the bottom of each bowl. Ladle the gazpacho base over the top. Garnish each bowl with some more diced vegetables, orange wedge pieces, a few leaves of basil, and a drizzle of olive oil.