A dish for peak season

Gazpacho from Farmer’s Creekside Tavern & Inn



Kate Melton

Welcome to summer, folks. We cooks have long awaited the chance to dig into our CSA boxes and see what they will become for dinner. One of the season’s most bountiful crops is the glorious fresh tomato. You know, the aromatic and plump kind of heirloom that just begs to be eaten raw with some salt and pepper. During peak season you may have so many fresh grown tomatoes that it feels like you’re swimming in ’em. 

But take heart. Sean Wolf, executive chef at the new Farmer’s Creekside Tavern, knows just the thing to do with that CSA haul. “You get your box, stop at a roadside stand, pick up a flat of tomatoes, and make some soup,” he says. 

Farmer’s Creekside is a brand-new restaurant and inn nestled in the village of LeRoy by the Oatka Creek. The venue is a historic building that was nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire in 2004. Since 2007, owner Bill Farmer has led a decade-long effort to renovate the building from the ground up. Four floors up, to be precise. 

It’s both charming and impressive on scene, with indoor and outdoor bar and dining. The menus are seasonal and include separate offerings for the tavern level—a combination of old English, early American, and gastropub—and the upstairs menu featuring what Wolf calls New American cuisine—a combination of French and Italian (steaks, chops, seafood with unique preparations). To round out the fanciness factor, the venue also boasts a wine program led by sommelier and general manager Chris Grocki and two other on-staff somms. 

But back to the tomatoes. One thing you’ll find on the restaurant’s summer menu is a hearty gazpacho. This is a raw soup made with a smooth liquid tomato base and a mix of fresh vegetables. When well executed, the gazpacho is both savory and bright, a refreshing summer meal. 

I visited Wolf recently to watch him make the dish in person. I learned that he went to art school and has a great appreciation for food as a product of creative expression. Like many young people, his career took a few winding turns before he was eventually drawn back to his first love of cooking. The chef’s resume includes the likes of 2Vine, the Inn on the Lake, and the Strathallan Hotel, to name a few. 

“Cooking engages all five senses,” he tells me. “It’s fleeting. It’s just there for that moment for an audience of one or two, then it’s gone. It’s a beautiful art because it gives life—we require food to live. I realized [cooking] was the most noble thing I could be doing.” 

Here’s how you can make gazpacho at home: 

 

Ingredients

•12–14 medium-sized tomatoes

•1 medium yellow pepper, diced

•1 medium orange pepper, diced

•1 medium red pepper, diced

•1 English cucumber, seeds removed, diced

•4 inner ribs of celery, leaves intact, finely minced

•1 small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)

•1 tablespoon garlic, minced 

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

• Sherry or red wine vinegar

• Salt, to taste

• ½ teaspoon sriracha, to taste

• Fresh cilantro, to taste

Directions

Start by bringing a pot of water to a gentle boil. You will now concasse the tomatoes, which is another way of saying blanch and shock them in cold water to remove the skin. Use a knife to cut a small X shape on the bottom of each tomato and drop them into the boiling water for thirty seconds (the riper the tomato, the less time it will need to boil). Place the tomatoes in ice water for several seconds and peel off the skin. 

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove the seeds. Dice the tomatoes and divide them into two parts. Take the other diced vegetables (onion, pepper, cucumber, celery) and divide them into two parts. Then combine one half of the medley with one half of the diced tomatoes. Add salt and set aside for thirty minutes. 

Take the remaining half of your tomatoes and place them in a metal sieve or colander to let the juices drip into a bowl. Gently push the tomatoes using the back of a spoon, or alternatively, process them with a food mill. Any watery pulp should be strained as well. The goal is to separate the juice from the seeds and draw as much liquid as possible. 

After the thirty minutes, the salted vegetables should start releasing juices. Add them to a food processor or blender together with any tomato juice collected earlier. While the food processor is running, add garlic, Worcestershire, and sriracha. Then add vinegar and drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil. Blend until the mixture is smooth but not yet completely pureed. 

Remove the mixture from the food processor. To it, add the remaining diced tomatoes and other vegetables (you may reserve some for garnish). Fold in the vegetables and cilantro, and the gazpacho is ready to serve. It can be prepared ahead of time and chilled overnight and lasts up to one week in the fridge. 

Bethany Bushen is a Rochester-area freelance writer. Follow her at
@BRBushen. 

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