Bloody Mary Gazpacho
Garden Variety: “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Lewis Grizzard
We discovered the Watauga County Farmer’s Market in Boone, N.C., a few years ago on assignment for a magazine article Adam was photographing. During his many years as a freelancer, I would often accompany him on the more interesting stories or locations. I was delighted to find this open-air miracle so close to our new home. Sure, we have a sprinkling of those cute little rickety roadside produce stands where you can purchase some local honey or garden ‘maters (their word, not mine). But there’s just something special about a farmer’s market. First of all, since most operate once or twice a week, you must plan to go. This is very big with women. We like to know when and where we will be going so we can schedule it, look forward to it and dress for it. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, there are very few things for which I will pop out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday–but for Market Day, I will and I do.
From May through October, vendors offer a plethora of wares in the parking lot of Horn in the West, a historical pageant about the local history. There are fruits and vegetables picked at their peak, locally grown plants and flowers, baked goods from country kitchens, jams and jellies, soaps and potpourri, fresh eggs, artisan handmade crafts and more. The market is all a buzz and there is a wonderful sense of community between the eclectic mix of buyers and sellers. And for those precious few months, I can buy fresh produce directly from the grower and actually talk to the people responsible for their food. Although flower gardening is in my blood, my experience with growing vegetables has been limited to tomatoes, peppers and herbs. So, I’ve asked the kind and knowledgeable folks in the overalls a thing or two about growing my own veggies. (We finally put in a substantial garden this year.) They all say the same thing: you need good soil, good sun, and good food (fertilizer).
Too bad my parents didn’t have that advice years ago when we lived in Fort Myers.
My mother, probably because her mother had grown cucumbers and tomatoes in her back yard, had always dreamed of having a vegetable garden. “There is just something so satisfying about growing your own food!” she said. Can’t argue with that.
So, in the back yard of our Adams’ Avenue ranch (style, not cattle), just to the right of our playhouse, my father unearthed the sandy ground from which their bounty would spring. They planted corn and radishes in neat little rows and waited. But something was off. The corn, a mere 2-feet tall, had tasseled, a signal that it had matured and was ready to pick. They hesitantly plucked the ear from the little stalk, slowly pulled back the thin husk and, in horror with twisted faces, revealed a new breed of miniature maize. The diminutive cob was so small it couldn’t have passed for cocktail corn. I felt sorry for the tiny thing and imagined it might say, “I’m gonna be a real corn cob when I grow up!”
And the radishes? They were just too darn hot to eat.
Although Florida is the Sunshine State, it just wasn’t over that 8×8 patch of silt that my parents had planted under the shade of our large Poinciana Tree. Oh, and Dad said he didn’t fertilize, either. Bad soil, no sun, no food mean, well… no food.
Thankfully, our garden has good soil, gets full sun, and we have organically fed our rooted friends. The corn is already 3-feet high and there’s not a tassel in sight so I think we’re in good shape.
In conjunction with our home-grown produce, I will continue to support local farms and foods through the Watauga County Farmer’s Market and any others I may encounter.
So for the next few months, you can find me there, early on a Saturday, armed with my extra-deep wicker basket, a bottle of water, and small change. I will feel incredibly European. I will have no grocery list for what I will make later. I will find my inspiration among the stands of juicy fruits and flavorful vegetables. And I’ll probably buy way too much…but that’s exactly what you’re suppose to do at the Farmer’s Market.
Here’s the perfect recipe to use up all those gorgeous tomatoes and a variety of summer produce. It’s a great warm-weather cooler or starter that will guarantee to take the edge off those rising temperature. Despite the name, there’s no alcohol involved, just all of the goodies that make a “bloody” so good.
- 10 medium tomatoes
- 1 English cucumber
- 4 celery ribs
- 2 red peppers
- 1 large red onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 6 scallions
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 46 ounces tomato juice, preferably organic
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- juice of 2 limes
- pinch of sugar
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon celery seed
- Hot sauce, to taste
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Garnishes: Cocktail shrimp, celery stalks, sliced cucumbers, olives, slivered red onion
- Coarsely chop the tomatoes, cucumber, celery, peppers, onion, garlic and scallions. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped but not puréed (you want to retain some chunky texture to the soup). Place the processed vegetable in large bowl and proceed with the next vegetable until finished chopping.
- Add the honey, Worcestershire, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, sugar, pepper flakes and celery seed; mix well.
- Season to taste with the hot sauce, salt and pepper. Chill before serving.
Planning: The flavors in this develop the longer they sit. The gazpacho can keep, covered in the fridge, for up to 4 days.
Product Purity: Check the label on your Worcestershire sauce since most store brands contain high fructose corn syrup. Annie’s organic is fabulous. Frank’s hot sauce is my absolute favorite.
Presentation: I prefer to showcase all the beautiful colors in a clear mug, outfitted with some of the ingredients in the gazpacho. Stand up a stalk of celery, skewer a few olives, hang a shrimp on the rim and float a cucumber slice and a sliver of red onion on top. Serve extra olive oil on the side for a drizzle at the table for a bonus flavor booster.
© 2012 Hutchstone, LLC. All rights reserved.
Translucence is a lovely word, isn’t it? It’s a lovely thing to behold as well and a very effective use of light in certain circumstances, as in the celery above or when you have thinly sliced citrus fruits. Position your dish so the light is behind it, fill in the front with a reflector (some info on this here). Adjust your exposure for the center of the image, making sure the brightness of the back light is somewhat overexposed (brighter than normal) and voilá!
Content and photography © 2012 Hutchstone, LLC. All rights reserved.