A surprising treat on a hot day
We get together once a year on the 4th; families and friends for most our lives, seeing past the wrinkles and such, seeing the youth that we were. We play softball, line parade routes, and eat — cookout favorites for comfort and new dishes to surprise as we catch up at the picnic tables under the shade. I look forward each year to dreaming up something new to share — they sort of expect it by now; these friends who are my favorite taste testers.
I have been a bit obsessed with cherries since their first late spring appearance and have been concocting a wild variety of recipes; brandied, scones, pie, chutney, pickles so it was only natural for me to mix them up in this surprising cherry gazpacho. The flavors blend the sweet and layer the savory with highlights of basil and garlicky croutons. My friend Shannon calls it, “a party in my mouth!”
- 1 pound Dark Sweet Cherries (Bing)
- 1 ¼ cups peeled and seeded Cucumber
- 1 cup chopped Yellow Bell Pepper
- 1 cup chopped Red Bell Pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- ½ teaspoon ground Black Pepper
- 3 Garlic Cloves
- 3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 ½ tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 pieces Texas Toast
- ¼ cup ground Almonds
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon Red Chili Flakes (to taste)
- 2 cups Cento Chef’s Cut Tomatoes with Basil
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- 8 Yellow Grape Tomatoes
- 2 sprigs Fresh Lemon Thyme
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Basil (I used Lemon Basil)
- This is a multi-step preparation. First you will clean and chop your vegetables and make your toast before blending. This mixture will rest/chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Pit cherries and set aside about 10 to chop for garnish.
- Slice 1 garlic clove, mince 1 clove and leave 1 clove whole.
- Brush both slices of toast with olive oil on both sides and toast in a skillet over medium heat until crispy and golden brown.
- Rub each side with whole garlic clove, set one piece aside for croutons and cut up remaining piece into 1” cubes.
- In a large bowl layer cherries (and collected juices), bell peppers, bread, sliced garlic, ground almonds and sprinkle each layer with salt and black pepper and a light drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar.
- Cover and chill mixture for at least two hours or overnight.
- Make Croutons by slicing crust off remaining piece of toast and cut into ¼ inch cubes. Toast cubes in a skillet over medium heat using about 1 tablespoon olive oil with minced garlic and sprigs of fresh thyme until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towel and cool. Store in airtight container until time to serve.
- Add lemon juice and red chili peppers to the fruit and vegetable mixture and blend in batches.
- For a more creamy consistency spoon gazpacho through a fine mesh sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to get all the goodness.
- Taste the mixture and adjust to suit with more salt, pepper, and chili.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve so it is nice and cold!
- Chop remaining cherries and yellow tomatoes into tiny pieces, finely chop your fresh basil.
- Serve in small bowls (about 4-5 ounces each) and garnish with cherries, tomatoes, croutons, a little basil and a scant drizzle of olive oil and maybe a lemon slice.
Products used: Arianna Trading Company Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Gourmet Garden Chili Flakes, Cento Tomatoes (Chef’s Cut with Basil)