Summer has officially hit New York like a raging inferno. With temperatures soaring into the 90's and humidity to match, my appetite to cook has all but been snuffed out. This chilled poached tomato dish involves a day of waiting, but the prep time is minimal, and the cooking time is so short your apartment won't have a chance to heat up.
If you're thinking that tomatoes and zucchini sound a bit dull, I'd normally agree with you, but this is one of those transformative dishes that takes ordinary ingredients and produces something otherworldly. The sweet summer tomatoes, which are naturally loaded with umami are infused with an extra boost of flavour from the vegetarian dashi they're poached in. After a soak overnight in the broth, they're rendered plump, juicy and brimming with lip-smacking umami that will have you grinning like a vegan tasting bacon for the first time.
The chilled zucchini does an admirable job mimicking soba noodles in shape if not in color. Finally, the whole thing is doused with a light sauce made from the poaching liquid and garnished with some thin strips of kaffir lime leaf. As a dish, it's colourful and refreshing with a nice combination of textures, and if you feel like you're apartment's been turned into a Turkish Hamam by the heat, this will surely lower your core temperature by a few degrees.
For poached tomato
- Add the water, kombu and salt to a bowl and let it soak overnight.
- Find a pot that's just big enough to hold the tomatoes in one layer, but don't put the tomatoes in yet. Add the liquid the kombu was soaking in into the pot and bring to a boil. Dunk the tomatoes in for a few seconds making sure to roll them around a few times. This loosens the skin and makes it very easy to peel the tomatoes. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water and peel each tomato.
- When all the tomatoes are peeled, bring the pot of stock back up to a boil, then turn off the heat. Put the peeled tomatoes in the pot and cover with a lid. The tomatoes will gently poach in the liquid as it comes back down to room temperature. When it reaches room temperature, gently transfer the tomatoes to a container and pour the stock over them. Seal and refrigerate overnight to allow the tomatoes to absorb the flavor from the broth.
- The next day, drain off 1 C of the poaching liquid from the tomatoes and pass it through a tea strainer into a small saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch and soy sauce then bring to a boil. The sauce should become clear and thicken just a little (it will still be very loose). Put the pot in a water bath to bring the sauce back to room temperature then put it in the freezer to chill.
- For the zucchini, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cut the top and bottom off of the zucchini then slice it lengthwise down the middle. Use a spoon to scrape any seeds out. Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to slice the zucchini into long noodles. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the pot of salted water reaches a rolling boil, add the zucchini and stir for a few seconds. The zucchini should be wilted but slightly crunchy still. Drain the "noodles", and dump them into the ice bath. Squeeze some of the excess water out of the noodles with your hands and transfer to a bowl. Refrigerate to chill.
- To serve, just lay down a nest of zucchini noodles in a decorative bowl and top with 1 poached tomato. Douse with a generous amount of sauce and sprinkle a few threads of kaffir lime leaf on top.