About this time of year, farmers’ markets are all about the tomatoes. And the more cost-effective ones are all about tomatoes with issues. Sold as “seconds tomatoes,” “sauce tomatoes” or maybe just “scratch and dent,” these specimens have enough cracks, blemishes or other surface imperfections to require them to be sold at a substantial discount–think $1.50 a pound instead of $3.
These tomatoes also fall right into one of my favorite summer recipes: gazpacho. A soup that barely requires you to turn on a burner is easy to cook even if it’s 98 degrees; paired with a baguette, it makes for an ideal dinner on the front porch or maybe at an outdoor indie-rock concert.
My usual recipe mashes up the directions from two stories that ran in the Post in an earlier millennium (from July and August in 1998). It was an insane amount of work when I had to chop all the ingredients by hand; with a food processor, everything’s done in under an hour.
Farmers’ market gazpacho
Makes about 6 cups, or 4-6 servings
- 1/4 pound sweet onion, cut into quarters
- 1/2 pound cucumbers, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1/2 pound bell peppers of any color, seeded and cut into quarters
- 1 rib celery, chopped (optional)
- About 2 1/4 pounds seconds tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and then smashed into paste with the flat side of a knife
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1/2 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 dashes Tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Cajun or other spicy seasoning (optional)
Cut an x pattern across the bottom of each tomato. Fill a pot with enough water to cover them, bring it to a boil, drop in the tomatoes, and cook for two minutes. Dump the tomatoes into a strainer (pour ice over them if you’re in a hurry) and let them sit.
Throw the onion, cucumbers, peppers and (if using) celery into a food processor and finely chop until barely chunky. Pour the resulting mix into a 6-cup container. Pull the skin off the tomatoes, cut out any blemishes or cracks, cut them into quarters, and push out their seeds. Process about 3/4 of them and pour into the container.
Process the last quarter of the tomatoes with the garlic, tomato juice, olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and (if using) sauce and seasonings. Pour into the container and stir to combine; eat the next day, preferably with a locally-baked baguette (current favorites near me: Leonora in Arlington, Bread Furst in northwest D.C.) and outdoors.