When the Summer's in full swing, I pretty much live on tomatoes. I eat them out of hand and in salads, drink them in gazpacho — and now, thanks to Michael Chiarello, I can swim in them! In addition to making fresh mozzarella on the spot and singing the virtues of sustainable agriculture, chef Chiarello also introduced the audience to a savory martini made from tomato water, a clear liquid with a delicate, acidic flavor that's produced when tomatoes are strained of their juices. When paired with bocconcini and a chiffonade of basil, this genius non-alcoholic martini resembles a caprese salad in a glass.
The best part: make use of beloved tomatoes by reserving their remains for another recipe (pico de gallo, anyone?). Make this distinctive drink when you read more.
3-4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes plus 1/2 tomato, cut into 4 wedges
Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
4 fresh mozzarella bocconcini, each 1 inch in diameter
4 cherry tomatoes
8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into very fine chiffonade
1-1/2 teaspoons basil-flavored olive oil (optional)
Equipment: 4 wooden skewers, each 4-5 inches long
Note: The flavor depends completely on the tomatoes, so make this dish only if you have in-season, ripe tomatoes. Spike the martinis, if you like, with a splash of pepper vodka or grappa.
- You will need enough tomato water to fill your martini glasses, so measure their capacity (probably something between 5-9 ounces for each glass).
- Chill the martini glasses in the freezer, if there is room, or refrigerate an hour ahead of serving. (A freezer gives a heavy frost.)
- Peel, seed, and chop the 3 to 4 pounds of tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, place in a sieve or coffee filter suspended over a bowl, and refrigerate for several hours. As the tomatoes release their juice, it will fall into the bowl, giving you an almost gin-clear liquid with lots of flavor. Season the tomato water to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until very cold. Reserve the tomato pulp for another use.
- Halve or quarter the bocconcini if they are larger than 1 inch in diameter. Thread a tomato wedge, a bocconcini, and a cherry tomato onto each of the 4 wooden skewers. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with basil oil, if desired.
- Working quickly, divide the tomato liquid among the chilled martini glasses. Balance the skewers on top of the glasses, then sprinkle the basil chiffonade over the skewers. Serve immediately with a drizzle of basil oil.
- Drinks, Summertime