Gazpacho Summer

Hi! This is Karen.

And this is Dave.

It isn’t summer unless there is gazpacho

Have you heard of The West Side Market?

You can keep your farmer’s markets. We are WSM fans. It’s one of the best parts of living downtown.

You don’t have to live downtown to go there, but having it so close–just across the river on West 25th Street–turns the Market into our local grocery store for the four days a week it’s open–Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

There are two buildings with booths. The winterized building is for meats, fish, bread, pastry, cheese, coffee, eggs, and nuts. The open sided building is produce. The WSM prides itself on fresh and local.

The produce at WSM

Not everything is local by a long shot. Much of the produce is the same as in grocery stores, but the prices are better, and you can get a much greater variety of fruits and vegetables. Meat prices are no great shakes, and dairy prices are about as high as they get anywhere.

When you go there, you feel tradition. The names above the stalls are in tile. The stalls aren’t big. They don’t need to be. People specialize. If a cut of meat or poultry isn’t there, walk twenty feet and you find it in the next aisle. Merchants look down at you from their elevated platforms. They all greet you and make eye contact. Some of them are into more direct sales: “Want to try this delicious melon?” or “I’ll give your three bunches for the price of two.”

You develop relationships with different sellers and stalls and tend to go back to the same ones. I go to one vegetable seller for most of my produce because she does a good job of picking out the best tomatoes, etc. for me. She even tosses in a little extra or gives me a new veggie to try from time to time. Some sellers try to foist off their less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables. Over time you develop a tendency to shop at the stalls that give you the best goods and services, and the owners begin to know you.

Admiring the pastries

Frequent shoppers bring their bags or wheeled carts. They know the merchants and what they sell. Still, shopping is a different experience here. It is more personal and comforting to know your butcher or dairyman and to buy from the same person each week.

I’m a bag guy. Can’t stand the people with their carts and baby strollers packed with produce rather than kids trying to push their way through the aisles.

That’s what we have started to do. This summer was turned over to the ingredients for gazpacho. That cold soup/stew has become Dave’s lunch of choice.  He’ll buy a bag of tomatoes and other ingredients, based on what he’s hungry for, and we typically go home with a couple recyclable bags of fixings.

Dave will display the ample supplies on the counter for a few hours or a day. Then the time comes to dig in. He chops, dices, strains, pares, and seasons. It’s a mystery to me. I stay out of the kitchen. This takes a couple of hours. But it is easy to smell what is being added to the mix: cilantro, onions, maybe anise seeds.

Here’s my basic recipe:

  • 3 pounds of roma tomatoes seeded
  • 2-3 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes seeded
  • 2-3 cucumbers peeled and seeded
  • 3 large yellow or orange peppers seeded
  • a couple of onions
  • a tablespoon of sugar
  • fresh thyme, mint, cilantro, dill, and garlic to taste
  • a teaspoon of anise seeds
  • a can of tomato paste
  • quarter to half a cup of balsamic vinegar
  • quarter cup of olive oil
  • cup of leftover wine if available
  • ground hot red pepper to taste.

To all that I add anything I might find in the refrigerator that looks good and should be used up. When you serve the gazpacho, you can sprinkle some grated flavorful hard cheese on top. Actually you can do just about anything you want to gazpacho. That’s how I started adding the mint.

Then the big soup pot sits and seasons. The next day it is brought out to eat. I like to add a bit of sugar to mine and either low-fat plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream to add a nice creamy texture.

For me the key to great gazpacho is hand cutting the vegetables, seeding them, and then letting the mix “cook” for a day–sit around in the fridge. (You can eat it right away, it just won’t have that wonderful blended flavors taste.) Yes, it’s time consuming seeding and chopping the vegetables, but the difference in texture and taste from food-processor gazpacho is worth it. These proportions make close to two gallons, and gazpacho keeps really well in the fridge. Oh, when you seed, you lessen the gas production.

After eating such a healthy meal you feel so self-righteous that it seems perfectly okay to dig into a bowl of ice cream.

There she goes again with the ice cream.


3 responses to “Gazpacho Summer”

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  1. Hi Karen,
    When we lived in Kent we would go to the WPM occasionly to get fresh produce and Hungarian products, as I am Hungarian on my father’s side. We loved going there. I can’t believe you live near the West Side now. We’re still in Virginia and we had more snow last winter than Cleveland! And Bill promised me good weather if we moved here. Boo, hiss!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Yea! Bravo for city living! Will the wonders never cease? Love this entry. Could almost see, touch, smell and taste the delights of the market and the soup! Humbled by the Almighty’s desire to delight us and make life so worth living!

  3. frugal franny says:

    The WSM sounds heavenly; a man who cooks for you is even more devine 🙂