I changed the original recipe up a bit by adding the cucumber to the mix - both to add another fresh note to the dish but to help give a bit more thin liquid without having to dilute with water. Instead of pulpy tomatoes used as a garnish in the center, I've taken advantage of the beautiful & tiny heirlooms out there right now as a colorful element. If you want the tomato liquid to be more translucent and not as red, you can take the time to continue to strain the tomato water until it's almost clear - that's your call and would make this dish super elegant. For me, I wanted to cue to the tomato in the dish & wanted to spend more time with company than I did with cheesecloth. I need not say you should make this NOW as we are winding down tomato season - don't wait & attempt this with fall or winter tomatoes.
The Essence of Tomatoes - adapted from this recipe found on BBC Good Food - serves 6 as a soup/starter
- 5 pounds large cherry or small roma vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 stick celery , finely chopped
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 small shallot , finely chopped
- half of a fennel bulb, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove , finely chopped
- 2 sprigs thyme , roughly chopped
- 4 leaves tarragon , roughly chopped
- handful basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 pinches cayenne pepper
- 5 drops Worcestershire sauce
- 3 drops Tabasco sauce
- 1/4 cup small basil leaves, left whole if small or chiffonaded if larger leaves
- 1 1/2 cups small cherry heirloom tomatoes - of any color or type - chopped or left whole if small
- good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Place three layers of cheesecloth (or a new kitchen cloth) over a large bowl and pour the mix into the cloth. Tie up with string and hang in a cold place for at least 15 minutes over the bowl to collect the tomato essence. Squeeze the mixture in the cloth (you may have to do this in batches, as well) to get out as much liquid as possible. Set aside the pulp. Taste and correct the seasoning, if necessary, then cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- To serve, spoon a quarter of the chopped heirloom tomato into the center of six bowls. Carefully pour the chilled tomato essence around the tomato and garnish with the basil and a small drizzling of olive oil.