Makes about 8 cups
This is hardly a recipe! But this beautifully flavored elixir is well worth the trouble. If you are making the aspic variation, use the ratio of 1 packet gelatin to 3 cups tomato-cucumber water. It will be soft and delicate, cool and refreshing with the flavor of an ethereal gazpacho.

  • 4 pounds tomatoes, stemmed, cored, and quartered
  • 1 large english cucumber, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Finely minced chives
  • Finely minced fresh or preserved lemon rind

Purée the tomatoes and cucumbers with the salt in a food processor. Line a large bowl with a large piece of cheesecloth or a very thin, clean muslin kitchen towel. Pour the puréed tomatoes and cucumbers into the towel-lined bowl. Gather the ends of the towel and tie them into knots. Slip a long- handled wooden spoon or dowel through and under the knots and suspend the towel over the bowl so the tomato-cucumber water can slowly drip into the bowl. Resist the urge to squeeze the pulp in the towel, it will make the tomato-cucumber water cloudy. Allow the tomatoes to drip for 4-8 hours, then discard the pulp and refrigerate the tomato-cucumber water. Serve cold in chilled bowls or glasses with the chives and lemon rind.

Variation (makes 3 cups): To make Tomato-Cucumber Water Aspic, soften 1 packet unflavored gelatin in 2 tablespoons cool water in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup hot tomato-cucumber water and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of cool tomato-cucumber water. Cover and refrigerate until it sets. It will be a soft gelatin. Spoon into chilled glasses or bowls and serve garnished with minced chives and lemon rind, and the chopped flesh of a seeded, peeled, ripe tomato. 

Excerpted with permission from Canal House Cooking by Christopher Hirsheimer & Melissa Hamilton. © 2010.