Dinner parties are arranged a little differently –– they are much smaller, but just as much fun as we enjoy friends and good food!
From tomato water granita (with seafood or vegetarian) to chilled seafood stew, everything was made early in the day, so it was all pretty effortless when it came time to eat. More time to visit with friends.
Physical distancing (note, I did not say “social” distancing, we’re still being social, just “physically” apart) is difficult, but if you want to meet with your friends, there are certainly ways to make it happen. I’ve been having two to three people for Saturday night dinner on my very large, wrap-around front porch. We’ve worked out a routine that keeps everyone safe: wearing masks upon arrival and getting settled in, table distance, setting out separate plates of serving utensils, and plenty of sanitizing wipes around. You can put separate pitchers of water or even bottles of wine at each area. It becomes routine, and is not that big a deal! We’re still together!
I have a new favorite summer delight: Tomato Water Granita
This granita is flavored up as you would a Bloody Mary, and is one of the most refreshing things you can eat on a hot, humid summer’s day. It goes far beyond satisfying with its cold texture and spice. It really hits the spot and I hope you try it.
First you have to start with one of my favorite ingredients –– fresh tomato water. I’m talking the clear liquid from the tomato, not tomato juice which includes a lot of the tomato pulp. It takes a while to strain, but is well worth it!
I avoid making shrimp cocktail in the traditional way at all costs, so I wanted to come up with something a little different. I often serve little glasses of fresh tomato water in hot summer. It’s such a surprise because this clear or barely pink liquid is packed with so much flavor, and can be dressed up any way you would a tomato: add little skewers of cherry tomatoes, olives, a basil leaf, mozzarella, etc. I thought turning it into a granita would delightful, and it was one of the best things I’ve made in a while. This in one of my new favorites, and I’ll be making it again and again.
Tomato Water Granita Cocktail
(also vegan version)
First, make the tomato water:
The clear water you see along the knife when you slice into a fresh, ripe tomato is extremely flavorful and makes a great virgin or otherwise cocktail, with a little patience. Choose fat, local tomatoes that feel heavy in the hand, but are not overly soft or mushy. This is what I make when the farm stands have boxes of “canning” tomatoes for sale, or, a table of overripe ugly tomatoes!
If you use a tea towel to drain the tomatoes, the liquid will be nearly clear. If you use cheesecloth, it will be a pink color. I prefer the tea towel method because it is a surprise when someone takes a sip, but this time around, I decided I wanted the pink cast and drained it through the cheesecloth.
- 4 or 5 big heavy heirloom tomatoes, ugly ones are perfect
- Coarse sea salt
Line a fine mesh strainer with a brilliantly clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth. Working over the strainer, cut ripe heirloom tomatoes into chunks and salt liberally.
Let this drain naturally, don’t squeeze it; the resulting drained liquid will be almost clear, a surprise, because it looks anemic, yet packs incredible fresh tomato juice flavor. This will take a while, so if you are impatient, I suggest you make it the night before, put it in the refrigerator, and out of your mind, until the next morning. It takes some time, so it is best made the day before anyway.
Before serving, you’ll want it nice and cold. It will keep for several days, if it lasts that long. But it won’t.
To make Granita Cocktail:
- 1 quart of tomato water
- A few splashes of hot sauce
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp. prepared horseradish
- ¼ to ½ tsp. celery salt
- Zest and juice of one lime
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Mix everything together and place in a shallow dish and stick in the freezer.
Freeze for about 45 minutes then run a fork around the edges. It should have started to firm up.
Check at 30 minutes, and rake with the fork. Continue forking at 30-minute intervals until it is at the texture you like. Cover well.
To serve, top with whatever you like. I used shrimps that I roasted and chilled. Cut them up, it is much easier to eat!
Vegetarian version: I also made one using baked tofu that was also seasoned with paprika and garlic and chilled.
We started things off with little nibbles including spiced nuts and marinated artichoke and sun-dried tomatoes served with (Against the Grain gluten-free) baguette slices. Main course was a simple seafood stew in which I poached the cod, then chilled it all down. The broth was made from lobster stock I had stashed in the freezer and shrimp shells from the shrimp in the stew and the tomato water granita cocktail. We finished everything off with fresh blueberries and sorbet or dairy-free ice cream.
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