the essence of tomatoes August 17, 2010

I've been waiting and waiting to share this recipe with you but, well, there's some traveling going on that has priority these past two weeks. On our first leisurely morning of our trip, I'm up early to work on this post – this is time-sensitive stuff! I made this recipe for a dinner party several weeks ago. It was quite the dinner party dish in that it took some effort and has one of those names that brings about a good bit of guffawing & eye rolling…but there's no better title for this recipe. It is the essence of tomatoes and it's worth every minute in the kitchen. It's arrival at the table inspired a few sighs and definitely savoring of the pure, unadulterated tomato presence.

I changed the original recipe up a bit by adding the cucumber to the mix – both to add another fresh note to the dish but to help give a bit more thin liquid without having to dilute with water. Instead of pulpy tomatoes used as a garnish in the center, I've taken advantage of the beautiful & tiny heirlooms out there right now as a colorful element. If you want the tomato liquid to be more translucent and not as red, you can take the time to continue to strain the tomato water until it's almost clear – that's your call and would make this dish super elegant. For me, I wanted to cue to the tomato in the dish & wanted to spend more time with company than I did with cheesecloth. I need not say you should make this NOW as we are winding down tomato season – don't wait & attempt this with fall or winter tomatoes.

The Essence of Tomatoes – adapted from this recipe found on BBC Good Food – serves 6 as a soup/starter

  • 5 pounds large cherry or small roma vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery , finely chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot , finely chopped
  • half of a fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove , finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme , roughly chopped
  • 4 leaves tarragon , roughly chopped
  • handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 5 drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 drops Tabasco sauce

      To Serve:

  • 1/4 cup small basil leaves, left whole if small or chiffonaded if larger leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups small cherry heirloom tomatoes – of any color or type – chopped or left whole if small
  • good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

– In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together with 1 tbsp sea salt, cover with cling film and marinate for 6 hrs. Then, in a food processor, pulse the tomato mix in batches until roughly chopped – don't over-chop them to a mush.
– Place three layers of cheesecloth (or a new kitchen cloth) over a large bowl and pour the mix into the cloth. Tie up with string and hang in a cold place for at least 15 minutes over the bowl to collect the tomato essence. Squeeze the mixture in the cloth (you may have to do this in batches, as well) to get out as much liquid as possible. Set aside the pulp. Taste and correct the seasoning, if necessary, then cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
– To serve, spoon a quarter of the chopped heirloom tomato into the center of six bowls. Carefully pour the chilled tomato essence around the tomato and garnish with the basil and a small drizzling of olive oil.


carter @ the kitchenette Aug 17, 2010 11:08 am

Love this. Tomatoes are just coming into season in Denver, so perfect timing, at least for me anyways.
I’ll make this for myself, since my husband would no doubt taste this and say “but… where’s the steak in this recipe?”
Beautiful shot!

wendy Aug 17, 2010 07:08 pm

Hi there,
This (and all your other recipes!) looks delicious. I’ll need to try this recipe with the tomatoes outside, ready to go.

tami h. Aug 18, 2010 01:08 am

As much as I want to say “Your husband will LOVE this if he’s at all a fan of tomatoes”….I also want to say “Well, that means more for you!” :) Thanks for stopping by the blog :)

tami h. Aug 18, 2010 01:08 am

Thanks, Wendy :)

Pam Aug 18, 2010 06:08 am

Awesome photo! I will trying this asap. Hope you are enjoying your trip.

carter @ the kitchenette Aug 18, 2010 07:08 am

Oh, he’ll be jealous that I just made it for myself. Maybe I’ll just give him a side of steak haha.

Alisa Aug 21, 2010 08:08 pm

It looks wonderful.I cant wait to try it.This is perfect in this summer heat! Aug 22, 2010 12:08 pm

This looks very refreshing and delicious! nice photo as well ;)

Maria Aug 24, 2010 10:08 am

Gorgeous! I am enjoying summer tomatoes every day right now. I can’t get enough. I look forward to hearing your presentation at Blogher Food. Hurry up October:)

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