The Taste of Summer

Gazpacho topped with cheery tomatoes, served with a cheese crisp

Gazpacho. Linger over the word. Taste it on your mental palate. It’s the taste of summer, the taste of ripe fulfillment.  Dip your spoon into the richness of the essence of tomato.

Gazpacho. Nothing like it.

One of my favorite scenes in Pedro Almodóvar’s great film, ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ is when Carmen Maura throws together a kind of kindergarten version of gazpacho—tomato juice, olive oil , a few cloves of garlic and salt in a blender.  Better than a year of therapy for the stressed out Maura.

One of my most memorable gazpachos was at a beachfront restaurant in Sanlucar, one of the sherry towns of Spain. We were having lunch with José Ignacio Domecq, Jr. of Pedro Domecq of the Domecq sherry family.

The restaurant, Mirador Doñana, (www.miradordonana.com)  overlooks the beach and, as the name suggests, the Parque Nacional de Doñana wildlife refuge across the broad, shallow estuary of the Rio Guadalquivir, the ‘big river’ of the Moors.

The Doñana is a major stopover for migratory birds. There are upwards of 125 species of birds that breed in the park, including 17 varieties of duck. The park is also home to the endangered Spanish lynx.

The lunch, which as you might guess featured seafood,  started with a small bowl of Gazpacho, served with a glass of chilled Manzanilla, straight from  the Domecq cellars.

Lovely.

A few days ago, a friend who is a master gardener, brought a generous gift of ripe tomatoes to my kitchen. There was nothing for it but to make Gazpacho, as you can see in the photo.  (Note the frico, an Italian-style cheese crisp, on the edge of the plate.)

Gazpacho can be as simple as Carmen Maura’s in the film but it can be much better with the addition of onion, red bell pepper, maybe a little cucumber, maybe a few crusts of dried bread, some chopped cilantro, a dash of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar. Give it a salsa beat with a Jalapeño pepper. Oh, and good olive oil. You can play around with it to suit your taste. Don’t forget the salt. The taste of summer.

If you want a recipe, just for reference, see “A Season in Spain” by Ann and Larry Walker.

—Larry Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Eggplant Was the Start of It All

 

Yesterday a friend gave me this eggplant from her garden.  Reminds of those exquisite Japanese ceramics.  Also reminded me of my first eggplant.

We were living in Carmel Valley, newly transplanted from the Midwest.  A neighbor gave us an eggplant.  I’d never see one before. Hadn’t been in my mom’s traditional  vegetable offerings.  I thought the eggplant so lovely that I made a centerpiece of it fro the table. Had no idea of how to cook it.  Of course, after a bit of time, the inevitable happened and the poor thing rotted and collapsed.  That’s when I decided I would learn to cook everything and set about doing so.

One of Ann Walker Catering’s most popular appetizers is for eggplant and was first published in my husband’s and my book, A Season in Spain.  This eggplant salad is delicious mounted on crostini.

Ensalada de Berenienas

(Eggplant Salad)

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if needed

2 pounds unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice

salt and black pepper to taste

1 medium onion, chopped

2 red or green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice

3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons capers, drained

Heat the oil in a large noncreative skillet, add the eggplant and toss to coat with oil. Lower heat to medium and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook quickly until the eggplant begins to color. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Add more oil to skillet if needed and cook onion and peppers until soft. Stir in tomatoes and cook until most of liquid is evaporated. Return eggplant to the pan and stir in vinegar, sugar and capers. Cook over low heat until the eggplant is soft but still holds its shape. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

 

 

 

 

Roll out the Barrel at a Winery in SoMa

Following up on a tip from a client, we stopped by the Bluxome Street Winery in SoMa recently. The client had suggested that the winery would be a good site for a party. Since we were in the neighborhood, picking up some wines for another client at K&L wines on Fourth Street, we walked around the corner to check out Bluxome Street Winery.

The client was right. Bluxome Street Winery works very well as an event site. It is one of dozens of urban wineries springing up in San Francisco and the East Bay. It has the gritty charm of a real working winery, combined with an open and spacious feeling. It’s a good story to tell as well.  There were dozens, some say hundreds, of wineries in San Francisco around the turn of the 20th century. Most were based in SoMa, know then as South of the Slot, named after the cable car tracks that ran on Market Street in those days.

Bluxome produces about 3000 cases a year, with an emphasis on balanced and elegant Pinot Noir. The winemaker, Webster Marquez, has an excellent track record. He is co-owner and co-founder of Anthill Farms Winery and the winemaker for C. Donatiello Winery, both in Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley.

So you’ve got the space covered, you’ve got the wines covered. You can throw a party or have your wedding in wine country without ever leaving the city.

We will be catering an event there soon and will update with more details. In the meantime, you can contact them directly at www.bluxomewinery.com, phone 415.543.5353. The tasting room is open every day except Monday from noon to 7 pm if you want to check it out and taste the lovely wines.

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Ann Walker Catering can help you choose the right site for your event. We have catered in most of the major event centers in the Bay Area and can offer detailed site maps and the upside and downside of the sites.Site selection is only one of the many services we offer. We are a one-stop catering service.