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
– 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.