Gazpacho, Thai Style
I adore farmer’s markets, which is actually somewhat of a pity, because you know what I don’t enjoy? Waking up at 5am on a Saturday morning. I like to think of Saturdays as my glorious day of grace when I can actually let my body sleep in until -get ready for it- SEVEN A.M. Sometimes even eight or nine, if I’ve been particularly wicked the night before. However, even though I may wake up in time for my Sunday morning Coronation Street marathon, that doesn’t actually mean that I get out of bed until at least an hour or two later. Fortunately for me, it seems that everyone else in this small suburban town of ours is just as lazy as I am, and if you stroll in to the local Saturday open air market at 11am it’s just starting to really fill up.
Oh, and I should mention: the affection that I feel for shopping through local markets is equally matched by Mike’s unfettered loathing for the ordeal. Suggesting that we go to the farmer’s market on a Saturday morning is matched with about as much enthusiasm as, “Hey, want me to try waxing your special bits today?”, “Have some cheesecake, I made it out of tofu and beet juice” or, “Let’s stay in to watch Sex and the City all night and give each other pedicures!” If this was a game of Death Is Not An Option I’m pretty certain that he’d let forth a lugubrious sigh and just reach for the pumice stone.
Anyway, the other day I tricked Mike into going to the market with me. HE thought we were going to Home Depot, the silly fella. Sure, he was a bit confused when I insisted that we park on the main street so I could grab some cash-money out of the bank, but it wasn’t until I went tearing off down the street with a reusable shopping bag flailing through the air behind me that my agenda finally dawned on him. Grump, grumble, grouch, he plodded along behind me in a woeful death march. I don’t actually like to see Mike wrapped in the throes of extreme misery (for very long), so at least I did my part and made it in and out in 10 minutes or less……mostly because it’s not a very big market.
I bought my first locally grown and lusciously sweet ruby-ripe tomatoes of the season, a big bag of crunchy field cucumbers, two bunches of asparagus, plums, and assorted other fruits and vegetables before grudgingly leaving my happy place. With this first fresh cache, I thought that it was only right to make a lovely light summer luncheon soup that showcased the flavors of those bright and vibrant vegetables….and, more importantly, to make Mike something for lunch which would gradually ease him into forgiving me for my morning indiscretions.
The soup was good. Forgiveness may not be quite as forthcoming.
Serves 4 for a light lunch
- 8 luscious vine ripened field tomatoes
- 3 field cucumbers, or 1/2 English cucumber
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup red onion (~ 1.5″ wedge)
- 1-2 Thai birds eye chilis *
- 2 tsp fish sauce **
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 limes (juice of both, 3/4 tsp lime zest)
- 3/4″ chunk ginger (2 tsp)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 large fresh sprigs basil (2 tbsp chopped)
- small handful cilantro (1.5 tbsp chopped)
- salt and pepper
* Thai birds eye chilis are hotter than a devil in the desert, so remember that it’s always easier to ramp the heat up rather than cool it down. If you’re feeling a bit tentative, start with 1 chili after you removed the ribs and seeds. For a medium heat use both gutted chilis, and if you like it hot, hot, hot! leave the ribs and seeds of the chili intact.
** Fish sauce is, indeed, made from fish. However, there are many great vegetarian fish (flavored) sauces on the market if you were going to make a strictly vegan soup.
Carve the stem ends off of the tomatoes and cut them up into chunks. Rarely would I tell you that size doesn’t matter, but this may be one of the few situations where that holds true.
Cut the cucumbers, onion, pepper and garlic into rough chunks as well. Cutting the veg into chunks just ensures that it fits better into the blender and purees more evenly. Although you technically don’t really NEED to chop up something as wee as a garlic clove or chili, they’re far from benign, and I don’t leave things like a possible spoonful of chili to chance.
Put all of the vegetables into a blender along with the fish sauce, vinegar and olive oil. Use a rasp or grater for the lime zest and then squeeze in the juice of both limes.
Puree the mixture until it is mostly smooth.
Peel the knob of ginger and grate or finely mince 2 tsp into the soupy mixture. Add the brown sugar as well.
Tear the leaves from the basil and cilantro and add them to the mix, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Puree the mixture again until it’s smooth, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. The soup is best when left to chill for at least 1/2 hour, and it keeps quite nicely in the refrigerator for up to 2 days if you give it a quick stir before serving.
The bright lime, fiery chilis and potent ginger work together to shake those tomatoes into life. Cilantro and basil just swim by on the tip of your tongue, reminding you that Thai inspired food can be deliciously light and and rich with full, refreshing flavors.
I figure that I can only use the Home Depot excuse once or twice more before he catches on, so I think next week I’ll just be honest: “Babe, I’m going to the Farmer’s Market. You can come with me, if you really must, but I think you’ll be much happier just staying here at home. By the way, the litter box needs cleaning and I noticed that the toilet was making a funny sound. Anyway, off I go. Ooh, I can’t wait to buy some of those Mennonite pickled fish that we saw last week, or those overpriced Greek olive oils that are actually just mass produced in Woodbridge. Yeah, a bottle or two of that as well. Hopefully I won’t spend too much money, left all alone like that…….”
Yup. Farmer’s markets, by whatever means necessary. That’s my motto.