Yellow Gazpacho with Head-On Shrimp al Ajillo

Yellow gazpacho with head-on shrimp al ajillo

The longer we live, the more we understand that our lives, especially now that we have two children, are about compromises. These are often in the form of compromising what we want to do, more or less completely, because our children are either unwilling or unable to do it. Recently though, a new kind of compromise hoved into view after 10 days of excessive eating and drinking while we hosted family from the west coast: namely, that we needed to compromise our caloric intake in order to fit into our clothes.

So, after making a pact to foreswear wine, beer and meat for as long as it takes until we feel less disgusting, we stopped at one of south Jersey’s myriad farm stands and collected what appeared to be a month’s worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. The summer’s bounty in this part of the world is at its peak now through late-September with extraordinary corn, peaches, nectarines, black berries and peppers leaping from the ground and, so it feels, throwing themselves into ones shopping basket. Indeed, so bountiful is the produce that most farm stands sell off yesterday’s unsold items at deep discounts, enabling us to pick-up several pounds of meaty yellow tomatoes, a bushel of Italian frying peppers and a dozen nectarines for less than $5.

Yellow tomato gazpacho with head-on shrimp al ajillo

Of course, now that we had all this over-ripe plenty, we had to do something with it, and sharpish, lest it go to waste. Happily, our son Paolo is fast becoming a fruit bat and snaffled most of the nectarines before we’d even got home that day, but the tomatoes weren’t so easily taken care of. Too lumpish and unattractive for salads but still too good for cooking, we were in something of a quandary until we noticed a yellow gazpacho on Matyson BOB’s Instagram feed.

Tweet from Matyson Restaurant, Philadelphia

We’ve mentioned before that once-upon-a-time recognition from professionals via Instagram has been among the very highest points of our blogging lives, and a retweet by Matyson the day after we celebrated our anniversary dinner there in late July filled us with blushing pride too. And, not that we are seeking further professional approval in publishing this here post and social media-ing it as widely as possible, though we would no doubt be chuffed to bits were that to occur, but the timeliness of that inspiration cannot be understated.

Paired with wonderful sweet, head-on shrimp from a local Asian grocery, crushed pistachios, garlic chive flowers from our garden and halved grapes, the finished dish was somewhere between gazpacho, ajo blanco and seasonal nirvana. It was only while watching a news item this morning featuring Dan Barber of Blue Hills at Stone Barns-fame, in which he was describing his biodynamic farming practices, that we learned that tomatoes are the “Hummers of the vegetable world”, pulling nutrients out the earth faster than almost any other crop aside of wheat and corn. It was a useful, if slightly boring, reminder that even as we compromise our choices for the sake of our waistlines, there are other compromises that we are unwittingly making.

Yellow tomato gazpacho with head-on shrimp al ajillo

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Head-On Shrimp al Ajillo
(Serves 4 as a starter)


  • 2-4lbs (1-2 kgs) ripe tomatoes, in this case yellow, but ya know…, skinned
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, or Italian-style frying pepper (Cubanelle peppers would work well also), seed pod removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cucumber, skinned, de-seeded and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 slices torn-up white bread (we used a hoagie roll, being all south Jersey)
  • 4-6 tablespoons best olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 good teaspoon coarse salt
  • good pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:

  • 10 white grapes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon pistachio nuts, bashed into irregular pieces
  • 2 radishes, slice finely
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chive blossoms
  • 10-15 chives

For the shrimp:

  • 1lb large, head-on shrimp, shells removed.
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • good squeeze of lemon juice


  1. In abundant boiling water, place tomatoes for five minutes. Remove and allow to cool before handling.
  2. When tomato skins are removed, chop roughly and place in blender jar with chopped peppers, garlic and cucumber.
  3. Starting on slowest setting, blend until mostly smooth. Pause blender and bread, add oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  4. Blend again until smooth and fluffy-looking. Taste and correct seasoning.
  5. In a blender or food processor, blitz garlic, hot pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and lemon juice until you have a loose paste.
  6. Pour over shrimp making sure they are all well-coated with the marinade.
  7. In a medium pan, heat remaining two tablespoons of oil and carefully sauté marinaded shrimp until just cooked.
  8. Pour gazpacho into large bowls and garnish with shrimp, grapes, chives, blossoms, radishes and nuts. A drizzle of your best and most fragrant olive oil and an extra dash of sherry vinegar are rather nice here too.
  9. Serve with a glass of chilled white wine, or not, as we didn’t.

13 thoughts on “Yellow Gazpacho with Head-On Shrimp al Ajillo

  1. Beautifully done as always!
    I’m in Philly and work in Marlton, NJ – and I’m dying to know where you found the shrimp. I’m always skeptical of some of the Asian markets’ fish selections. I usually hit up HMart where I’m confident in the fish or I buy live.

    1. @Christine: Thanks for the question/comment. We got our head-on shrimp at quite frankly the best Asian market we have found outside of H-Mart (do you go to the Lansdale location?) It’s called Assi Plaza in North Wales, PA, It’s probably a bit of a trek out from central Philly, but if you’re in Montgomery County, it should be doable… and if you want to make it a day-trip there is a great Korean barbecue joint next door.

  2. @Sues: they are so superior to beheaded shrimp that it’s not a fair comparison. The trick is being careful as you cook them so the sweet head fat/gunk doesn’t run out while they’re in the pan. You’ll definitely lose some no matter how careful you are, but retaining as much as possible is the key. The contrast of that gooey succulence with the fresh, acidity of the gazpacho is pretty amazing.

  3. I miss being able to get head-on shrimp (Fairway doesn’t sell them, unfortunately and Asian markets are impossible to find in the CT suburbs outside of New Haven) but screw it, I’m making this for dinner this week with the beheaded version of shrimp.

  4. You guys do consistently some of the most thoughtful, interesting, and delicious blogging about food and what it means, and what how our appetites affect the world around us, that there is –please keep up the good work. Great, smart stuff.

  5. Hello there–We have plenty of head-on shrimp here, and not too pricey, but it may be cheaper for me to fly from Hawaii to NJ for that insanely beautiful produce. Seriously, I just bought 3 heirloom tomatoes for $7.60–($5.99 a lb) They were worth it, to us, but I can’t imagine getting what you got for $5.00.
    And this dish looks great!

  6. @Jonny Less “defected” and more “dragged kicking and screaming” but yes, we had to leave NYC a little over three years ago. 🙂 Having a Fairway very closeby has at least made the transition a little more bearable.

    1. @Elizabeth: We kicked and screamed too, and now still bear a little self-hatred for having given up on the city. However, that pain is usually eased by the recollection what we gained in the move, as well as making sure to treasure the small victories when we find things like head-on shrimp at the ethnic markets hidden away in a moribund-looking strip-mall.

  7. There are reasonably priced and very good cherry and grape tomatoes but these bigguns were those wonderfully colorful uglies that we rarely see here–They just aren’t grown as much as the more durable cherry/grape ones. You’re right–the dirt is good but there’s just not much left that doesn’t have a huge hotel on it, and I live in a townhouse that has “common ” ground and they’d frown on any gardening (plus I have a very black thumb–but I grow nice cats.)
    Lots of stuff going on here re: GMO’s etc. so there is a LOT of interest in local foods, etc..I believe it will get better and stronger. I’ll do my part and buy all the local food I can, it’s good! Aloha~!

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