My name is Chrissy,
and I’m a produce-a-holic.
It all started when I lived in London and became addicted to farmers markets. Every Saturday I’d walk one hour from my tiny flat near Regent’s Park to the Portobello Road market in Notting Hill, early enough to beat the tourist rush, drop off my wares at home and head out back to the other side of town to hit up the Borough Market before it closed for the evening. After about 6 hours of walking I’d come home to find more produce than any one person can eat in a weeks’ time, but everything looked so pretty! And was just so cheap! I could not help myself.
I moved to Chicago and while the farmers’ markets in the summer are neighborhood events, and places to see and be seen, I don’t find myself drawn to them in the same way. The impulse buying of produce subsided a bit until I discovered Stanley’s Fruit and Vegetables…and it became a problem again.
If you live in Chicago and have never been to Stanley’s, you’re SO missing out. They always have a weekly steal and often times I come home with produce not on my list, and in quantities that shift my creative juices into gear. Two weeks ago I bought a CRATE of strawberries for $1. ONE DOLLAR. I am not even kidding. I ate a lot of strawberries that week.
This week, I walked in to find crates of vine-ripe tomatoes for $1.50. They just looked so pretty that I bought one, and then as I schlepped my groceries up stairs, I surveyed the damage and wondered what I’d be doing with a whole crate of tomatoes, and how I could tie it all in with the Baltics
…an area not necessarily known for tomato dishes.
When taking a look at the typical ingredient list for that region, the pickled theme came up time and again, as did some similarities with Russian cuisine. Given these two facts…and my abundance of tomatoes, an idea emerged.
I’m a huge fan of brunch, and breakfast being my favorite meal to eat, brunch is most definitely my favorite meal to host. Despite having about 20 go-to favorites for the food, I’ve so far failed to come up with a go-to brunch cocktail and THAT was a problem that needed remedying ASAP. While I am pretty savvy at tweaking, inventing and manipulating recipes for baked goods or other dishes on the fly, that skill does not extend to cocktails, so I got by with a little help from my friends.
However, before I could start the mixology part of things, I had to take care of these tomatoes and for that, I had to juice them.
Much like shucking oysters and scaling fish, I had no idea how to go about this, so I ran to the internet for help. One article I found outlined three methods for making homemade tomato juice: 1) grind into a paste and add water 2) smash and strain with a potato masher and 3) use a juicer.
I’m not sure how you all feel about the whole juicing movement that’s going around, but I haven’t really jumped on that bandwagon, partly because I don’t really drink juice. However, my friends have, and because of this I was able to secure a juicer for the Bloody experiment.
The model I used was a Waring Pro juice extractor which worked very well, and if you’re looking to buy, Williams-Sonoma
has a great juicer
selection. For reference, about 30, medium sized on-the-vine tomatoes yielded a little over a liter of juice.
Before the tomatoes can be juiced, they have to be prepped. Give them a rise, and remove the middle, watery, seedy part and the remaining fruit is the part tossed into the juicer. About halfway through cleaning my crate of tomatoes I started to wonder: Will using fresh tomatoes for these Bloody Marys make a discernible difference in taste compared to using V8 or canned tomato juice? Not that I was a tomato juice aficionado, but I tend to find the canned, and even bottled varieties, have a very metallic taste, and perhaps that’s the reason that I veer towards mimosas at brunch time. Obviously using fresh tomatoes would eliminate that but was that reason enough to make all this work worth it?
Yes. Yes, it was.
Once I got the juices flowing, I took a sip and the taste blew me away. Besides not tasting like a tin can, it just tasted…FRESH…and actually like tomato juice (alleviating my concerns about it tasting like little more than tomato-flavored water given its paler color). To be honest I’m not sure why I was surprised since we all know that freshly-squeezed orange juice or lemon juice is always so much better than anything from concentrate. Why should tomatoes be any different? The one difference we all noted from a texture perspective is that the fresh tomato juice didn’t suspend the other ingredients as well as a prepared variety would, but that is nothing that a stir or shake won’t fix. I’ll take it over whatever chemicals come in the can.
The tomato part sorted, I then worked through a traditional Bloody Mary recipe to incorporate other elements of Baltic cuisine, namely substituting pickled beet juice for pickle juice, and complementing that flavor by adding some freshly squeezed orange juice and Grand Marnier in addition to vodka. Finally, to add some smoke and depth, I added Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika, just because I find it intoxicating. I tried to incorporate some juice from some fresh beets I had roasted as well, but the consensus from the peanut gallery was that the beets overpowered the tomatoes, so I stuck with pickled beet juice alone. After constant pressure to keep adding MORE HORSERADISH! MORE HOT SAUCE! MORE PEPPER! and MORE PAPRIKA!, I ended up with what I think would prove to be the perfect Baltic Bloody and a tasty cure for that Sunday morning hangover.
Beety Bloody Mary
A Baltic-inspired twist on a classic brunch cocktail
- 2 cups freshly-squeezed tomato juice
- ½ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup pickled beet juice
- 2 TB and plus 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 4 TB horseradish
- 2 TB plus 2 tsp Cholula chipotle hot sauce
- 4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 TB plus 2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
- 6 shots vodka
- 3 shots Grand Marnier
- Pickled beets
- Fresh orange wheel
- Smoked paprika and coarse black pepper, for the rim
- Pour some smoked paprika and coarse black pepper onto a small plate. Rub the juicy side of an orange wedge along the lip of a pint glass. Roll the outer edge of the glass in the paprika and pepper until fully coated. Fill with ice and set aside.
- Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake gently and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an orange, olives, picked beets and parsley.
- Adjust all the spices and add-ins according to your taste.
- Shaken and strained is not necessary. Feel free to stir.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
Special shout-out and thanks to my taste-testers and peanut gallery: Fava, Legume, Lima, Grape, Mango, Vert, Meatball and Lemon.