Summer literally just started, but yesterday temperatures in the Kanazawa area reached over 30 degrees. The air conditioning isn’t on yet in our building, and we had to keep the doors and windows closed in the library to keep out sudden deluges of rain.
But yes, it’s summer, and time for all the delicious fresh produce and cold foods that come along with the season – chilled watermelon, iced tea, tofu, cold somen noodles and… gazpacho?
I’ve actually only had gazpacho one time in my life. My mom made it once when I was in middle school. I don’t actually remember liking it all that much – maybe it just never got hot enough on the north coast to appreciate it. Anyway, I don’t know what possessed me, but last week I had this loaf of French bread that wanted tomato soup, and gazpacho sounded like the right thing. The recipe I used was gazpacho in name only, so far as I can tell. It contained no bread, and was not made with a mortar and pestle. I guess that basically makes it liquid salsa. But it made a refreshing meal.
The only problem is that I ended up with more than a gallon of the stuff. You can only eat so much in one meal, and my attempt to invite others over to share in the bounty went something like this:
Me: Want to join us for dinner? We’re having toasted cheese sandwiches and gazpacho!
Friend: WTF is gazpacho
Even though the soup did fine in the fridge, after a few days I started getting really tired of it. What’s more, I was out of French bread. Casting around my kitchen for a substitute, I happened upon a package of somen, an especially thin wheat noodle that is popular in the summer, served chilled with a katsuo-based dipping sauce (tsuyu). “Pasta would have been better,” I grumbled to myself, “But this will have to do.”
Ten minutes later, dinner was served. It may be a shameless union of Japanese summer cuisine and liquid salad with a hijacked Spanish name, but the result satisfying nonetheless.
Cold Tomato Somen
- 1 ripe tomato, quartered
- 1 cucumber (halve, then cut half into large chunks and set the other half aside for garnish)
- 1/2 onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 1 red bell pepper (halved, seeds removed – cut one half into pieces, and set the other aside for garnish)
- 1 cup tomato juice (I pureed two tomatoes and strained them through cheese cloth)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (red wine vinegar if you have it – I used rice vinegar instead)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 bundles of somen noodles
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon mentsuyu (cold katsuo-based noodle broth)
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- any other toppings you have on hand (I happened to have some crab meat, but you could potentially use anything – shrimp, grilled chicken, ham, tofu, etc.)
- Using a blender or food processor, blend your vegetables one at a time. Attempt to leave some pieces of vegetable intact – don’t completely liquefy them. Combine the blended vegetables in a large bowl.
- Add tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. Move entire mixture to refrigerator, and allow to chill completely. The flavors will become more complex as they sit.
- (When the soup is chilled) Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add noodles and cook until tender – about two minutes! Drain and wash with cold water. Move to a bowl of ice water and set aside.
- Wisk egg and mentsuyu together, and pour into a large, lightly oiled frying pan on medium-low heat. Lift pan and turn from side to side, allowing the egg to spread across the pan. When egg is opaque and cooked, turn off the heat and remove the egg to a cutting board with a spatula. fold in half, then cut into thin strips.
- Slice remaining cucumber and bell pepper into long, thin strips.
- Remove noodles from water and drain thoroughly, and move to serving bowls. Ladle soup over noodles. Top with sliced cucumber, pepper, egg, and any other toppings you like/want/have sitting around. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Quick! Eat it while it’s still cold! Serve with a side of cold tofu topped with ginger and soy sauce if desired.