SERIOUSLY SIMPLE: Bloody Mary bar: A tomato celebration in a glass
When the tomato season reaches its peak, one of my favorite getaways, Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, Calif., hosts an heirloom tomato lunch. Renowned Chef Cal Stamenov kicks off the meal with an unusual and fun Bloody Mary bar. He makes his own mix by blending fresh tomatoes along with other spices. If you are a Bloody Mary fan, I highly recommend this over using a packaged mix.
You can find heirloom tomatoes in different colors, shapes and sizes, with amusing names like Giant Oxheart, Mortgage Lifter, Stump of the World, Nebraska Wedding or Mr. Stripey, to name a few. (Don't worry if you can't find quality heirloom tomatoes; juicy red beefsteaks will do as well).
Try this as a conversation starter for an easy weekend brunch. Blend up a pitcher of the Bloody Mary mix (below) and set out creative toppings, for your guests to personalize their drinks. I like to serve this alongside bagels, cream cheese and smoked fish. Your non-alcohol-drinking guests will enjoy virgin Bloody Marys as much as the vodka-spiked ones. (For virgin drinks, add more mixer). Present the mixer in a glass pitcher and the condiments in small bowls with spoons or forks. The possibilities are truly endless!
Bloody Mary Mix
Yields approximately 7 cups, which serves 6 to 8.
6 large heirloom tomatoes (or beefsteak tomatoes), about 3 pounds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
6 dashes Tabasco, or to taste
2 tablespoons horseradish cream
3/4 cup olive juice