In Paris it’s never tomato season, however that does not detract from the fact that it indeed is tomato season in all other warmer regions of the globe. What we get mostly here are Spanish ones, that are quite anaemic and devoid of flavour, I’m pretty sure the Spaniards keep the good tomatoes for themselves and export the uninteresting supermarket varieties, that look beautiful on the outside yet so disappointing when cut into. The tomatoes arriving from the south regions of France such as Toulouse and Marseille are quite beautiful and always a pleasure to sink ones’ teeth in.
As a child I had tomatoes coming out of my ears, the sheer bounty of this fruit on our island was of insane proportions, I have a vision still burned in my memory silver screen of lines of fifteen tonne trucks, the same ones used for construction filled to the brim with ripe tomatoes. Our house was just in front of a roundabout (will write about this roundabout in some other post) and as the trucks used to turn the curb dozens of tomatoes would fall off them, my grandmother would send me to pick up the tomatoes for later use.
So as you see foraging comes disguised in different forms, some pick up tomatoes from trees, I on the other hand always chose the roundabout, almost hit by cars, adrenaline rushed methods…. I say to each his own. They were perfectly good tomatoes, they were free and would have been squashed by cars if not picked up.
After washing them my grandmother would sprinkle the tomatoes with sugar and salt, we would eat them as if enjoying an apple. On fancier days she would juice the tomatoes and make us drink the whole lot . ‘’drink up, you look anaemic, tomatoes make blood, drink up’’ we did not need new blood, our faces were eternally red and we had enough iron in our bodies to last ages. Anyhow…
So if you find yourself with a bagful of tomatoes which you either honestly bought or else picked off the curb in front of your house, try to make a batch of Gazpacho, it’s so simple to do and a really intelligent way of making the most of this fruit as well as other summer vegetables. To be honest I have not been making it for a long time, but experimented a bit on how to maximise the tomato flavour, without adding any tinned ones.
The secret ingredient is the tomato stalk (the vine); wash it briefly with cold water and do not throw it away, instead when the Gazpacho is done, place the vines to steep in the soup overnight, you will notice a huge difference in intensity. Our fields smell of an exact mix of tomato stalk and fig leaves in the scorching august sun, the scent sticks to your skin and no matter how much expensive perfume one buys, it will never come close to the sensual lingering spirit of these two summer ghosts. Anyways here is the recipe.
Tomato Stalk Gazpacho.
- 2 Kilos ripe vine tomatoes (keep the vine)
- 1 cucumber
- 2 green peppers
- 2 red peppers
- 1 red onion
- 1 spring onion
- I clove garlic
- 50g fresh coriander
- Juice of two lemons
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons harissa
- Freshly milled white pepper
- Small sprinkling of cumin
- Ice cubes and toasted bread to serve
- Chop all washed ingredients, mix well in the largest bowl you have at the house.
- Pass the ingredients in a blender, I keep it a bit chunky not totally smooth.
- Place in a sealable container and infuse with the tomato stalks, let them infuse overnight.
- To serve I like some toasted bread topped with a simple salsa of red and green peppers, mint and cucumber. Some olive oil and an ice cube.