I love strawberries. At the moment my interest in this ruby-red fruit is more accurately described as an obsession. With the heat of the summer weighing heavily on my mind, the only thing that lingers is the sweet aroma of strawberries. It would seem that this luscious red fruit is even starting to compete with my favorite of all time — the tomato. This is quite a statement, since not only do I love tomatoes, I would even consider wearing a perfume made from the oven-roasted version.
I am so curious to know why the strawberry is so appealing, I am contemplating making a study of my two favorite reds. I would like to research whether my passionate obsession comes from a nostalgia for the Mediterranean or simply because the strawberry has a curious but easily explained substance that awakens all the senses. Just how the tomato and the strawberry are related could be the subject of a second chapter of a culinary research project. If only my daily tasks could be set aside for such a pastime!
Fortunately, I can exercise a certain amount of practical “strawberry madness” in my cooking as a chef, not to mention for friends and family. Yesterday I made a strawberry-raspberry-pink-grapefruit granita that turned out unexpectedly well, especially served with blueberries soaked in Marsala. Earlier this week I spent my afternoon of experimenting with tomatoes and strawberries for an especially refreshing gazpacho. I was sparked to mix my two favorites by a colleague’s description of her wedding day menu in this summer Spain.
The following recipe is “summer- heat-inspired” and makes for the perfect marriage.
- 10 large vine-ripened Roma tomatoes
- 20 organic strawberries
- one organic cucumber
- the zest and juice of two limes
- 25 ml extra virgin olive oil
- a good pinch of sea salt and black pepper
- 10 leaves of fresh basil
- a handful of fresh strawberries as a garnish
- a pinch of finely ground pink pepper
Fill a pan with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Wash the tomatoes, Cut away the crowns o with a paring knife and cut a an x on the bottom of each. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water just two minutes and remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon. Allow the tomatoes to cool slightly before removing the peel.
Meanwhile rinse the strawberries briefly, removing their crowns. Peel the garlic clove. Wash the limes and zest the bright green peel. Juice the limes and set both the zest and the juice aside. Wash and peel the cucumber, cutting it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds by scooping them out with a spoon. Cut each cucumber half in three ribbons and into a bite-sized dice.
Put the garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, sea salt and peeled tomatoes in the food processor. Blend them into a fine puree. Add the strawberries and fresh basil leaves to the tomatoes and pulse it to a nice chunky consistency. It should look like a chunky soup at this point. Pour the “soup” into a bowl. Add the cucumbers and refrigerate for at least one hour. Alternatively, place the bowl no more than fifteen minutes in the freezer. Serve the gazpacho in chilled glasses or bowls garnished with lemon zest and freshly cut strawberries. Drizzle some olive oil in each dish and enjoy.
Serve the soup chilled with ribs of celery, a bowl of olive oil and a piece of grilled white fish. Add extra garlic or red pepper for more punch.
Garnish the gazpacho with nice sour red currants.
This recipe was originally published as part of my weekly blog contribution to Jamie Magazine NL.