Tomato season never comes early enough or stays long enough. And for those who are still in the dark about the seasonal variations in a tomato, really, I weep for you. But hark! Finally it arrives. So here we have red, engorged fruits that really earn their label as fruits. When the tomato is really juicy and sweet, all you need is a bit of salt and a slice of thick, buttered bread for mind-blowing tomato sandwiches. Or try out my favorite childhood dish: ripe tomatoes sprinkled with sugar. The more sugar you sprinkle on there, the more likely a child is to slurp it up.
Another Chinese tomato stand-by is tomatoes stir-fried with egg. The simple dish is known as an easy start for beginner cooks, but there can be great variations in quality. There are several tricks to it. One: really ripe tomatoes, cut in eighths. Two: really hot peanut oil to scramble the egg until just golden brown, not your usual creamy kind. Add a little more oil and stir together ginger, scallions, tomato and egg. Plunk that over some noodles or rice, and it’s a great meal.
This got me thinking. My favorite thing to make with ripe tomatoes is soup. I’ve experimented all over the ball park with spices and roasting methods, but I’ve never merged the concentrated tomato flavors of a western soup with Chinese flavors. It’s time to remedy this oversight. This being a summery season, a chilled soup would hold up well against the impending heat. I like the surprising addition of chopped bok choy on top, which gives the otherwise smooth soup a mustardy crunch.
Chilled tomato soup with ginger and scallionsServes 6
3 small dried chilis
¼ cup peanut oil
1kg very ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 small bunch scallions
1 small nub of ginger, the size of half your thumb
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 stalks bok choy
In a heat-proof bowl, break the dried chilies into small pieces. Be careful not to touch your eyes afterwards. In a pan, heat the peanut oil until just smoking. Pour oil into the bowl, the chilies will sizzle. Set the chilies and oil aside to cool. In a blender, add tomatoes, garlic, scallions, ginger and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Strain and drizzle the chilled oil into the blender mixture while keeping the blender on high. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least an hour until cool. Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil, a sprinkle of chopped bok choy and sesame seeds.