The longer we live, the more we understand that our lives, especially now that we have two children, are about compromises. These are often in the form of compromising what we want to do, more or less completely, because our children are either unwilling or unable to do it. Recently though, a new kind of compromise hoved into view after 10 days of excessive eating while we hosted family from the west coast: namely, that we needed to compromise our caloric intake in order to fit into our clothes.
So, after making a pact, we stopped at one of south Jersey’s myriad farm stands and collected what appeared to be a month’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. The summer’s bounty in this part of the world is at its peak now through late-September with extraordinary corn, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, and peppers leaping from the ground and, so it feels, throwing themselves into one's shopping basket. Indeed, so bountiful is the produce that most farm stands sell off yesterday’s unsold items at deep discounts, enabling us to pick-up several pounds of meaty yellow tomatoes, a bushel of Italian frying peppers and a dozen nectarines for less than $5.
Of course, now that we had all this over-ripe plenty, we had to do something with it, and quick, lest it go to waste. Happily, our son Paolo is fast becoming a fruit bat and snaffled most of the nectarines before we’d even got home that day, but the tomatoes weren’t so easily taken care of. Too lumpish and unattractive for salads but still too good for cooking, we were in something of a quandary until we noticed a yellow gazpacho on Matyson BOB’s Instagram feed.
Paired with wonderful sweet, head-on shrimp from a local Asian grocery, crushed pistachios, garlic chive flowers from our garden and halved grapes, the finished dish was somewhere between gazpacho, ajo blanco, and seasonal nirvana. It was only while watching a news item this morning featuring Dan Barber of Blue Hills at Stone Barns-fame, in which he was describing his biodynamic farming practices, that we learned that tomatoes are the “Hummers of the vegetable world,” pulling nutrients out the earth faster than almost any other crop aside of wheat and corn. It was a useful, if slightly boring, reminder that even as we compromise our choices for the sake of our waistlines, there are other compromises that we are unwittingly making.
Yellow tomato gazpacho with head-on shrimp
(Serves 4 as a starter)
2-4 lbs ripe tomatoes, in this case yellow (any color will do), skinned
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, or Italian-style frying pepper (Cubanelle peppers would work well also), seed pod removed and roughly chopped
1 cucumber, skinned, de-seeded and chopped roughly
2-3 slices torn-up white bread (we used a hoagie roll)
4-6 tablespoons best olive oil
2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 good teaspoon coarse salt
Good pinch of freshly ground black pepper
10 white grapes, halved
1 tablespoon pistachio nuts, bashed into irregular pieces
2 radishes, sliced finely
1 tablespoon garlic chive blossoms
For the shrimp
1 lb. large, head-on shrimp, shells removed
2 medium cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
A good squeeze of lemon juice
1. In abundant boiling water, place tomatoes for five minutes. Remove and allow to cool before handling.
2. When tomato skins are removed, chop roughly and place in blender jar with chopped peppers, garlic, and cucumber.
3. Starting on slowest setting, blend until mostly smooth. Pause blender and add bread, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
4. Blend again until smooth and fluffy-looking. Taste and correct seasoning.
5. In a blender or food processor, blitz garlic, hot pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and lemon juice until you have a loose paste.
6. Pour over shrimp making sure they are all well-coated with the marinade.
7. In a medium pan, heat remaining two tablespoons of oil and carefully sauté marinaded shrimp until just cooked.
8. Pour gazpacho into large bowls and garnish with shrimp, grapes, chives, blossoms, radishes, and nuts. A drizzle of your best and most fragrant olive oil and an extra dash of sherry vinegar are rather nice here too.
Related post on We Are Never Full: Spring Meets Summer: Pasta con Granchio e Finocchio (Pasta w/ Crab and Fennel)