May 30, 2018

Dear friends,

The weather is finally hot enough to complain about. A month ago I thought this day would never come. I feared the mean spring might stretch through summer, with chilly evenings and cloudy days setting great swaths of the population on edge.

Friends, we have fended off the cold-weather riots of 2018. Let us celebrate by sacrificing the last of the 2017 tomatoes in the freezer.

I just unearthed a cache of frozen tomatoes intended for chili and winter soups. If you have followed my annual recommendation to toss washed summer tomatoes into plastic bags and freeze them whole, you may have a similar cache. Otherwise, to make this week’s recipe you’ll have to wait a few weeks for summer tomatoes to ripen in your garden or appear in stores. Do not attempt the recipe with cottony shipped-in tomatoes. It requires real, ripe tomatoes for its brash, “summer’s here” flavor.

The recipe for cold tomato soup with warm mojo shrimp was inspired by my fondness for hot and cold temperatures in the same dish. The soup requires very little cooking. The whole tomatoes are thawed, the skins slipped off and the blossom scar cut away and discarded. The tomatoes and juice are pureed in a food processor with sautéed onions, garlic, vinegar, bread and green pepper. The flavor of the soup belies its simplicity.

I had planned to marinate and grill the shrimp but my sinuses started pounding and I wanted out of the kitchen and onto the couch. I just threw the shrimp into a hot skillet to sear, then added a sploosh of mojo criollo marinade, sold in bottles in the ethnic foods section of most supermarkets. The marinade sizzled and evaporated, leaving a glossy lick of flavor on each shrimp.

By this time the soup had chilled, so I poured some into two wide mugs and dangled the shrimp on the rims, like shrimp cocktails. I handed one to Tony as I sank into the sofa cushions with my cold soup and hot shrimp. Ahhhh.

COLD TOMATO SOUP WITH HOT MOJO SHRIMP

For the soup:

5 medium-large frozen whole tomatoes or skinned ripe tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 oz. chewy white bread such as ciabatta

1 medium green pepper, in chunks

3 large cloves garlic, peeled

6 tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 tsp. salt

Slip the skins from the whole tomatoes and pour the tomatoes and juice (or chopped ripe tomatoes) into the bowl of a food processor.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Sauté onion until transparent over medium-high heat. Increase heat to high, add wine and boil until reduced by half. Scrape onions and wine into food processor bowl. Add bread, torn into chunks. Add green pepper, garlic, vinegar and salt. Puree until very smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a lidded plastic container and refrigerate until chilled. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

For the shrimp:

16 large raw shrimp

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup mojo criollo marinade (sold in most supermarkets in the ethnic foods aisle)

Peel shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer and pan almost starts to smoke, throw in shrimp and arrange in a single layer. After about 15 seconds, turn shrimp over with tongs. After 15 seconds, add marinade and stir shrimp until marinade evaporates, about 15 seconds.

To serve, pour cold soup into four mugs, stemmed wine glasses or martini glasses. Dangle four shrimp from the rim of each mug or glass. Makes 4 appetizer or light entree servings.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:

Two whole smoked chickens in Tony’s new salvaged outdoor oven; smoked chicken salad with green onions, pecans and dried cranberries; cold tomato soup and warm mojo shrimp; baked steak tacos with green onion, tomato and avocado salsa and chipotle sour cream; hummus.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:

Salad with grilled chicken at Alexandris in Wadsworth; pulled pork, collard greens and hush puppies from City Barbeque in Fairlawn; salad with double barbacoa at Chipotle’s in Fairlawn.

THE MAILBAG

From Kristi P.:
Re: plain rhubarb jam, I have been making and selling straight rhubarb jam for a few years. It is in big demand. Not always very pretty, though.

Jane notes:
Kristi sells her homemade bread, jam and garden produce at the Saturday farmer’s market in Seville.

From Barbara H.:
In the (rhubarb) jam recipe, could stevia work? Lower the sugar…

Dear Barbara:
Yes, but the preservation time for jams made with stevia is very short. The site sugarfreestevia.net recommends keeping the jam in the refrigerator for one week maximum or freezing it and using it quickly after it is thawed. The only stevia rhubarb jam recipe I could find was a hybrid rhubarb-blueberry jam that called for 1 teaspoon white stevia powder. You’ll need more stevia than that for a rhubarb-only jam.

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