You’ve had cream of tomato soup. You’ve had gazpacho. I have a new one for you: Tomato Water Soup. Chilled, it’s the essence of summer: sunshine and rainwater and ripe tomatoes. I think you will love it.
It’s still just a little early for ripe locally grown tomatoes here so I combined “on-the-vine” grocery store tomatoes with grocery store heirloom tomatoes (not local) and, using an ancient food mill handed down from my mother’s kitchen, cheesecloth and a strainer, come up with a perfectly wonderful summer soup.
If you’ve never used a food mill, it’s an aluminum tool made up of three parts: 1) a bowl with a handle and bottom plate with holes like those in a colander; 2) a crank fitted with a bent metal blade which crushes the food and forces it through the holes in the bottom plate as the crank is turned; and 3) a screw device that attaches the crank to the bottom plate from the bottom also has a little metal finger that sweeps anything off the bottom of the mill. Curved feet on the bottom fit over a bowl or pot to hold it in place. When you turn the crank, whatever is in the food mill gets forced though the holes in the bottom plate.
This was physical labor, Fellow FoodBeest. The tomatoes were not as ripe as I would have liked and the crank device was taking forever so I used my (clean) fingers to press the tomatoes into the bottom of the food mill. Then I took what was left of tomato pulp and wrapped it in a couple layers of cheesecloth. I could have left it to drip over a sieve into a bowl, but that would have taken more time than I wanted. Instead I squeezed that little ball of tomato pulp inside the cheesecloth until there was no more juice in it.
The result is about a quart of fresh tomato water. It will be sweet, translucent and anywhere from ocher-colored to pale pink.
I chilled it, then added cucumber, grape tomato halves, basil and shrimp for a gorgeous light summer lunch. It would also be a wonderful way to start a grilled dinner.
Just for the record, Fellow FoodBeest, I will not make this again until those local farmer’s market (or grown-in-a-pot-on-my-urban-deck) tomatoes are ready. The results will be much sweeter and the process easier.
Now you can do it too.
What You Need To Make Chilled Tomato Water Soup
8 large, ripe (locally grown) tomatoes
dried hot chili pepper or your favorite hot sauce
grape or cherry tomatoes
basil, dill, mint, or cilantro
(Options: cooked shrimp, avocado slices, lime juice, grilled corn cut off the cob)
food mill (or colander)
How To Make Chilled Tomato Water Soup
Wash and core tomatoes. Cut into pieces, place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt.
Put the food mill on a large bowl and process the tomatoes in your food mill by turning the crank. I wound up using my fingers to press the tomato pulp into the holes at the bottom of the food mill. You could use just a colander and your (clean) fingers for this step if you don’t have a food mill.
Remove the remaining pulp and skin from the food mill and put it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth on top of a bowl. You can leave the tomatoes here to drip slowly for several hours or you can take up the cheese cloth balls of tomato pulp and squeeze the cheese cloth until no more juice remains in it.
Add a sprinkle or two of hot chili pepper to taste and chill the tomato water.
Thinly slice a cucumber and mix it with 8 – 12 grape or cherry tomatoes (cut in half), a few chopped up basil, mint, dill, or cilantro leaves. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and divide between 4 soup bowls. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Pour the tomato water in each bowl and top with a spring of the basil, mint, dill or cilantro to garnish. If you are feeling creative you may want to add cooked shrimp, diced or sliced avocado, grilled corn cut off the cob or a little fresh lime juice.
So Fellow FoodBeest, the best of summer produce is upon us. This chilled soup is a great alternative to gazpacho. Tell us what you think. Use the comment section below.