Isn’t it lucky that just when it’s too hot to cook on the East Coast, tomatoes are at their sweetest, ripest and juiciest? Or at least it feels that way, like a serendipitous reward for suffering through a heat wave.
Before moving from San Francisco, I never quite understood the reality of relentlessly humid summer heat. I had certainly spent time in hot climates, but my reference for a good number of years had been the chilly summers when the cold fog settles in and you have to bundle up to grill outdoors.
In the east, I’ve adapted to a different agenda. Get to the market early, before the lettuce is wilted. Stick to the shady side of the street, and cook in the morning, if at all. Go into siesta mode. Develop a strategy to get through outdoor errands (even the dog doesn’t want to go outside). Dine late, like the Spanish. Take a steamy stroll at midnight.
But back to tomatoes. That’s the saving grace: Vine-ripened tomatoes are finally here. Year-round hot house tomatoes don’t begin to compare.
Even at the green markets, though, there are good ones and great ones. And the best tomatoes may not be the prettiest. Often, it’s the gnarly, misshapen, split-topped tomatoes that have the sweetest flavor. Or seek out the extremely ripe, must-sell-today tomatoes that some farmers discount.
They are perfect for this kind of chilled tomato soup, in which chopped tomatoes are seasoned with olive oil, garlic, salt and sherry vinegar; crushed; then pushed through a food mill or sieve to extract the all-red nectar.
The soup can stay in the fridge all day to be sipped at leisure. For a more substantial sit-down version, I add avocado toasts and a bright sweet pepper relish. As for the rest of the meal, still no cooking required. Cheese, olives, some good sliced ham. Peaches for dessert. Because who wants to heat up the place?
For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link: