The word “pumpkin” seems to worm its way into our collective food vocabulary earlier and earlier every year, but I’m not ready to let go of summer just yet. Not when summer isn’t ready to let go of us either, judging by the “gotcha!” spate of high-temperature days that just swept from the Midwest to Northeast.
And especially not when the garden is still is overflowing with peppers, herbs, and tomatoes just crying out to be harvested. Sure, we could take the last of the summer bounty and make buckets of salsa and gazpacho, or we could turn the final vegetable harvest into something a little more… shall we say… devilish.
The Ruddy Mary—a twist on the classic tomato-based brunch drink—gets a hit of subtle sweetness from freshly roasted red bell peppers and just-picked basil, and a slow burn from a whole jalapeño. (Oh, come on, it’s not that spicy, ya wimps.) It doesn’t need bells and whistles like bacon or um, an entire freaking fried chicken to stand apart; its simple savoriness is distinctive enough on its own.
And while there are purists who scoff at anyone who drinks a Bloody Mary once the sun starts to set, I’ve always found it to be a perfectly appropriate complement to late-afternoon porch sessions. (Vodka is a pretty harsh thing to drink that early in the morning, you guys.) While it’ll go well with your retinue of egg-based brunch dishes, the red peppers that soften the blow of this version also make the Ruddy Mary a lovely counterpoint to tangy dips like French onion or seven layer.
So before you put your grill away for the season, before you pack up the patio furniture and call it quits on al fresco brunches, lunches, and happy hours, stir up a pitcher of Ruddy Marys to toast the waning days of the summer season. The mix is potent, so fill your glass to the brim with ice before sipping.
The Ruddy Mary
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Makes 8 drinks
- 4 large red bell peppers (about 3/4-1 pound)
- 1 large jalapeño pepper
- 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
- 4 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped into 4-5 pieces, plus more for garnish
- 2 dozen fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)
- 1 cup vodka
- kosher salt to taste
Fire up your grill—gas, charcoal, wood, whatever you’ve got working for you—and place the bell and jalapeño peppers directly on the grill grates. If your tomatoes are small, you may want to put them in a grill basket; if they’re larger grape tomatoes, place them directly on the grates as well.
Grill the vegetables until the skin is good and charred, turning the veg as needed to make sure all sides get contact time with the grill. (Alternatively, you can roast whole peppers and tomatoes directly over a gas burner on the stovetop or under the broiler until the skin blackens and blisters.)
Place the roasted red peppers in a bowl and cover with a lid or plate for 15 minutes. The steam released by the pepper will separate the skin from the pepper for easy peeling.
Peel the skin off the peppers and slice in half, removing stems, ribs, and seeds.
De-stem the jalapeño pepper, but don’t bother peeling it if you don’t feel like it. (I never do.)
Throw the peppers, tomatoes, celery, and basil in a blender and puree to a smooth paste. If you’ve got a hardcore blender like a Vitamix, this won’t take too long; for more pedestrian blenders, you may have to stop periodically to scrape the sides of the blender with a spatula, then continue pureeing.
Press the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove all extra seeds and chunks to end up with about 2 1/2 cups liquid. (Do this in 2-3 batches, since the strainer will get clogged up fairly quickly.)
Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and vodka. Add salt as needed.
Garnish with celery stalks. Serve immediately in a tall ice-filled glass or refrigerate for up to 6 hours for future tippling.