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The Commons
Photo 1

Dot Read

A seasonal treat: tomato water cocktail, a little La Fleurie soft-ripened Camembert style cheese produced by Willow Hill Farms, and a locally baked baguette.

Food and Drink

The flavor of tomato summer in Vermont

Patience is the key to capturing this clear water from a bumper crop of tomatoes

Dorothy Read co-owns the Readmore Bed and Breakfast Inn in Bellows Falls (readmoreinn.com), where she cooks for her guests. She also co-produces the annual Roots on the River festival in Bellows Falls.

Originally published in The Commons issue #321 (Tuesday, November 30, 1999). This story appeared on page D1.



BELLOWS FALLS—The clear water you see along the knife when you slice into a fresh, ripe tomato is extremely flavorful — and, with a little patience, makes a great cocktail (virgin or otherwise).

Choose fat, local tomatoes that feel heavy in the hand but are not overly soft or mushy. I make this recipe when the farm stands have boxes of “canning” tomatoes for sale, or when I have planted too many tomato plants.

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 the clear appearance creates a surprise when someone first takes a sip.

You can also drink this refreshing beverage straight up with just a little salt, but here are the fancy instructions if you are entertaining.

Fresh tomato-water cocktail

¶Fresh tomatoes, chilled

¶Calamata olives, pitted

¶Orange or red cherry tomatoes

¶Fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

¶Sea salt, coarse

¶Pesto

¶Olive oil

¶Basil leaves, small and fresh

Line a fine-mesh strainer with a brilliantly clean tea towel or multiple layers of cheesecloth. Working over the strainer, cut ripe tomatoes into chunks and salt very lightly.

Let the tomatoes drain naturally — don’t squeeze them. The resulting drained liquid will be almost clear, a surprise, because it looks anemic, yet it packs incredible fresh tomato-juice flavor.

This process 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.

Before you serve it, you’ll want it nice and cold.

Place juice glasses in the freezer to chill. This is where I use the fancy little stemmed glasses one might associate with a nip of sherry at Downton Abbey, but any little glass, 4-ounce or less, will do.

While the glasses are chilling, prepare your spears. On a toothpick, order a basil leaf, a piece of mozzarella, and a cherry tomato to create sort of a mini Caprese salad. Or you can add a Calamata or other pitted olive rather than the tomato.

Once the glasses are nice and cold, dip the rims lightly in a bit of the tomato water, then into a saucer scattered with the salt, as if it were a margarita. This step is not essential, but I think it adds to the experience.

Fill glasses halfway with the tomato water, tuck a prepared spear in each, and then add a bit more juice to fill.

Drizzle with a few drops of pesto thinned with a little olive oil; use a light hand with this step, since there is not a lot of juice in each glass. Taste, and sprinkle a few grains of salt overall if you’d like more salt. Again, a light hand with these finishes.

This is the flavor of tomato summer in Vermont. You can also add a bit of vodka if you are so inclined, but then I wouldn’t advise it for breakfast. Well — brunch, perhaps.

It will keep for several days, if it lasts that long.

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