Puree, Then Strain

I am a fan of farmer's markets, as most Zuskateers know, and I am grateful that I am able to enjoy their bounty.  As I have turned our diet to focus more and more on what I can bring home from the farm market, I've tried to get a bit more creative with the veggies and fruits.  This requires a few things beyond the resources to purchase said veggies and fruits. First, you need time - time to study out different recipes and decide which ones you want to attempt and how to go about them, time to undertake the various recipes, and possibly learn some new cooking skills along the way.

Second, you will need a good source of recipes.  If you have access to the internet (which, if you are reading this, I assume you do) you can always Google for a new idea, but I like having a book in front of me in the kitchen to page through for ideas. And my favorite veggie cookbook is Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  It has tons of great recipes, but also it teaches you about veggies and fruits, how to choose and store them, and it teaches you techniques for preparing them, as well as how to make various sauces and dressings that will be good accompaniments.  It is not cheap, so if you can get it used, do so.  The only thing I do not like about this book is that sometimes I will get excited about a recipe on page x, only to discover that it needs a sauce on page y, which is based on some other sauce on page z, and then I give up, because it's too complicated.  Or, I just fudge it.  So far I have managed to live without making my own garlic aoli from scratch.

But every once in awhile I do get the notion to make some complicated thing just for the hell of it.  Well, not just for the hell of it.  Sometimes I find spending three hours in the kitchen making some complicated concoction very therapeutic - it helps me forget all the elder care stuff, the pile of paperwork on the desk upstairs that needs my attention, the phone calls I need to make on behalf of my loved ones (or to yell at my insurance company).  Gardening is maybe the only activity more mentally helpful than pureeing the hell out of a bowl of something.

So what have I been making?  Fruit has been in abundance, so I've been messing with that.  First up, Cantaloupe Soup.  Take your melon, chop up the flesh.  You'll get about 6 cups, but who's counting.  Take 1.5 cups of orange juice, and if you're a purist, you could fresh squeeze your own, but I grabbed the carton from the fridge.  1/4 cup lemon juice, and here I did go the fresh squeezed route because, oh, fresh lemon juice, so nice!  2 T. honey - something nice and fruity, or whateverthehell is on your shelf.  Just a little cinnamon, don't go overboard.  The recipe said 1/4 tsp but they are insane, it was way too much.  At little cinnamon goes a long way. It also called for 1/4 tsp salt and here I agreed with them - it does need that bit of salt.  Mix all this mess in a big bowl and get out your immersion blender if you have one, which I hope you are lucky enough to have one, because nothing gets the stress out like sticking an immersion blender into a mess like this, pressing the button and going whirrrrrrrr!  The final mess should be sweet and a little tart.  Chill, and when you serve, if you are an ultra fancy soul you can garnish with a little chopped mint but I didn't have any so we ate ours plain and it was just fab.

Next, the lemonades. We start with Blueberry Lemonade. Two cups H2O, 3/4 c. sugar, bring to boil.  Add peel of one lemon in strips, 2 c. blueberries: boil 5 min.  Strain through a fine sieve. Be careful, hot blueberry stuff will splash everywhere and stain. Go slow!  Add juice of 4 lemons.  FOUR!  Do not skimp.  Sometimes I strain a second time to make it ultra smooth, into whatever pitcher I am going to keep it in. Refrigerate.  Serve diluted 1:1 with club soda or H2O.  Imbibers may want to mix with a favorite spirit.  You can make this with frozen blueberries too.

Blueberry Lemonade

Watermelon Lemonade is just as good.  Puree about half of a medium-sized watermelon.  Not one of those really huge ones, just a decent sized one.  Here it is nice to use a blender if you have one.  It does the job and the seeds don't really get chopped up, so if you strain the puree into a bowl, they stay behind along with the flavorless pulp.  Add in the juice of 1 lemon, and 3 T of simple syrup (more or less, to your taste).  (Simple syrup is 1:1 water:sugar, which you will have to heat on the stove to get the sugar to dissolve, then cool before adding to your melonade.  You may have extra, you can keep it in the fridge for awhile, or put some in your hummingbird feeder.)  Mix it all up, cool, serve.  Some say dilute with water but I never do, I drink it straight. Delish, and very refreshing on a hot day.

Neither of those recipes takes terribly long to make - the worst part is cutting up the melon, and/or juicing the lemons, but if you have a good tool it's not too bad.  Don't get anything fancy, get an old-fashioned one that sits over a bowl with the cone you stick the cut lemon half over and push down on.  You know what I mean.  It catches the seeds and lets the juice run through.  Pour the juice through the strainer if you don't like the lemonade pulp, or not.

And now, my three-hour crazy recipe.  It is from The Heirloom Tomato Cookbook.  If you follow that link and look at the middle picture on the bottom row, you will see what I was trying to make.  This is how it came out.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon And Basil Essence

So, mine isn't as beautifully photographed and I left off the fried basil leaves because at the end of the recipe I was all "you want me to do what now?  In a half inch of olive oil? For six basil leaves?  I don't effing think so."   But I have to tell you, it tasted damn good.

Cold Golden Tomato Soup With Melon and Basil Essence

I don't know what the hell a Sharlyn Melon is so I just used the cantaloupe I had lying around.  That's why it's just "with Melon".

First, the ginger syrup.  1/4 c. water, 1/4 c. H2O, 1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated.  Shit.  Drive to grocery store and buy ginger.  Return home, pour self glass of blueberry lemonade, grate ginger.  Mix H2O, water, ginger, bring to boil, boil about a  minute, sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and pour it into a little bowl so it will cool quicker.  (One pot, one bowl, measuring cup, chopping board and knife dirtied.)

Cut up three big ass "golden" tomatoes (that's yellowy-orange to you and me).  The tomatoes were each about the size of a softball.  Core them, cut out bad spots - do this over a bowl so you don't lose any juices.  Get out your immersion blender and puree that mess!  Yippee!  Then strain through fine sieve.  (Bowl, knife, sieve dirtied.  You will have to throw out pulp and rinse the sieve several times to get all that tomato-y goodness strained.)  Now strain the ginger syrup into the tomato yum.  Stir and refrigerate.

Cut open melon.  Scoop out seeds.  If you have a nice ripe melon, juice will puddle in the cavity.  You need a bowl to put this juice into.  You don't have a melon baller, so use a spoon to scoop out sort-of roundish-y cone-balls of melon, somewhere between twelve and twenty, depending upon how many people you are willing to share this with.  Do this over the bowl, catching the juices.  Cut up the rest of the melon and put it in a container to eat later.  Then drain whatever juices have accumulated, into your bowl with your cone-balls. (Cutting board, knife, spoon, bowl dirtied.)

Oh shit, you did not make basil essence yet.  Pack a half cup full of basil leaves.  Thank the Lord you have chives in the freezer because you do not want to wash and chop 1/4 cup's worth.  Mix these two herbs in your blender, or your immersion blender mixing cup, along with 1/4 c. olive oil and, crap, 1 T lemon juice, okay, there's half a lemon in the fridge, that should yield enough.  Puree the shit out of this.  Takes awhile.  Now what?  Now...strain through a fine mesh sieve?  Are you fucking kidding me? Okay, with great patience, you collect enough frigging basil essence to use in two bowls of this stuff, and since there are only two of you, good enough. Hey, the rest of that stuff would be awfully good on pasta to go with this soup, since I didn't plan anything else for dinner... (Measuring cups, immersion blender, immersion blender cup, lemon juicer, sieve, cup dirtied.)

Okay, pour cantaloupe juice into bottom of two bowls.  Arrange cone-balls attractively in bowl.  Ladle tomato-ginger goodness  over top.  Drizzle effing basil essence around. Those fried basil leaves can suck my cantaloupe cone-balls.  Serve.  Oh. My. God.  It is really, really, really good.

10 responses so far

  • A. Marina Fournier says:

    You write:
    "The only thing I do not like about this book is that sometimes I will get excited about a recipe on page x, only to discover that it needs a sauce on page y, which is based on some other sauce on page z, and then I give up, because it's too complicated."

    The Joy of Cooking's earlier editions (can't say much about the latest, most modern one, because I haven't used it much at all yet) were the same way. What one might do is to go through the recipe that sounds interesting, going through the (make this element) all the way to the end bit, and make just that, one day. The next time you want to go further, make the element, requiring the bit you made last time, and so on until you have all the ingredients you need to make the dish you thought you were going to make that first night you saw the recipe.

    You may or may not find The Saucier's Apprentice, by Raymond Sokolov, as fascinating as I did. It starts with the essential building blocks you need for the various families of classic French sauces, and shows you the "family tree" of sauces that proceed from each. Finally, some of those variations made sense to me. I loved making demi glace over a couple of days, and using it afterwards. My MiL ouldn't undertand the what or why, and several times wanted to throw out perfectly well-preserved (in the fridge) demi glace. I also learned to make mayonnaise that has flavor and color, and well, it became herbal aioli...and was it ever tasty. I've often wondered why folks liked commercial mayonnaise--still do--but the home/hand made stuff is truly wonderful.

    Two things I love to have/make this time of the year is a caprese "salad" or stack with sliced heirloom tomatoes, the fresh (sqooshy, not rubber) mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves, with a bit of olive oil/balsamic vinegar/ette drizzled over it. I found that ordinary tomatoes, especially not in season (not that I ever liked out-of-season tomatoes), were no longer tolerable for me: I was spoiled.

    The other is fresh large figs (doesn't matter what kind, as long as you like them) nearly quartered so that you can stuff them with goat cheese that has been blended with a bit of honey to make is easier to work, mixed with a few leaves of finely minced/diced/sliced mint (spear- or orange-mint, but not peppermint), then sprinkled with chopped nuts. If all your experience with figs have been Newtons or otherwise dried ones, as mine had been, fresh ones are a completely different fruit, heavenly in the mouth.

    I wish the best for your and your mother.

  • becca says:

    ZOMG I made my own garlic aoili from scratch (WITH a food processor, can't imagine how this kind of recipe existed prior to that type of invention, blender is also fine said recipe!) and it was SO WORTH IT. It was super easy, surprisingly quick (pealing garlic is time consuming, but I do that all the time anyway) and super deliciouso.
    I am not a fancy cook, and it took a birthday-celebration to get me to be brave enough to try it, but I will totally do it again.
    I am philosophically uncomfortable with cold soup. I will continue to try some of other peoples until I find one that convinces me it is a good idea. A labor intensive one that mixes foods I am biased to thinking are "savory" with those I think of as "sweet" is not a good start. But watermelonade... that I must try. Thank you to for the simple syrup description- I always felt silly for not knowing that.

    • Zuska says:

      You are welcome! Let me tell you, though, this is one of those bizarre sounding soup combinations that is in reality just amazing. Mr. Z is not the world's most adventurous eater but he LOVED this. Also, it is nothing at all like gazpacho. The tomato flavor in this soup makes you realize why tomato is called a fruit. I don't know if it would come out as well with red tomatoes, I think the orange-yellow tomatoes are really needed for this recipe.

      I guess I am just going to have to suck it up and try to make aioli one of these days. I am not a fancy cook either, I think, but I like to eat GOOD food. Tonight I made a green bean-tomato-onion-garlic thing from Madison's cookbook that was so full of flavor it made me want to always eat green beans this way. With a slice of bread and butter it could have been a whole meal. Extremely simple but so full of flavor.

  • Ed says:

    I'm torn between my Eyeore tendencies and the fact that we passed this subject already, but literally the only cooking equipment I have access to is a rice cooker, and oven and a small paring knife. No air conditioning, small apartment with roommate means no usey oven. There is a lot of steaming involved here. It's also a problem that hot foods are unpalatable when you are really hot already. Sandwiches help but the ingredients cost more. On the sunny side my library has a copy of this book...

  • Dr. O says:

    That tomato soup sounds and looks amazing!!!

  • Ria says:

    One of my favorite things to serve up in late spring/early summer is cold fresh strawberry soup with lemon curd and mint leaves as garnish. The lemon curd has to be home-made, of course, to make sure it's not too sour. Super easy, very fresh tasting, not too heavy to start a meal with, and always a crowd pleaser. It's also fun to say "we're having strawberry soup!" and see the skeptical looks transition to requests for second servings.

    And it's best if the strawberries are the small perfectly ripe ones from the farmer's market, as I'm sure you already guessed.

  • NancyNew says:

    I love cold soups.

    Two FABULOUS cold soups--

    Avocado/lime--3 to 4 very ripe avocados, juice of 2 limes, puree and thin with cold low-fat buttermilk until the consistency is what you like.

    Chicken and Barley soup with mint--Poach 3 to 4 chicken breast supremes in about 3 cups of water or good chicken broth, then chop into pite sized pieces. Chill. Cook 1 cup of pearl barley (as per package instructions; don't drain after it's done. Chill.

    Put the two together, chop roughly a cup of fresh mint, and add. Enrich with plain greek yogurt until it's a consistency you like. Simply AMAZING.

    By the way--I use my rice cooker for more than rice (it does a WONDEFUL job with dried beans, FYI) and in warm or hot weather, I run a power cord outside and set it up there, rather than steaming up the kitchen.

  • JustaTech says:

    I am so envious of your tomatoes! Of all the foods I miss the most living in the Pacific NorthWet, edible tomatoes are the top of the list. But you need heat to get a good tomato, so you have to go East over the mountains to the desert, or all the way south to the Central Valley in California. *le sigh*

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