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How to be blown away by your own gazpacho

August 15, 2016

Leslie Brenner's gazpacho sevillano.

If you cook a lot, youíve probably made gazpacho before. Maybe youíve even made it dozens of times. But how often has it blown you away?

Just as I thought.

At the height of tomato season, it seems the right moment to give the perennially popular cold soup ó whose birthplace is southern Spain ó a fresh look.

The soupís roots go back a long way: It was born sometime between the 7th and 13th centuries (depending on who you ask). In any case, it predates the arrival of tomatoes in Europe, which may come as a surprise to anyone who knows gazpacho as a cold tomato soup with cucumbers and peppers thrown in.

In fact, gazpacho was originally a cold soup of pounded bread, garlic and salt with olive oil and vinegar. Some of those ingredients are often forgotten by modern American cooks, which is one of the many reasons gazpacho so often falls flat. Bread is essential for body, garlic for a little bite and vinegar for zing. Olive oil adds silkiness and its own fruity personality.

I approach it one of two ways. If I want a quick-as-possible version, I soak bread in sherry vinegar, toss it in the food processor with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, a red bell pepper, a little water, garlic, salt and a pinch of red pepper, give it a whirl and serve it right away with a couple of ice cubes in the bowl. Chopped cucumber, peppers and maybe scallions go on top as garnishes. Itís pretty darn good.

But if I want a version thatís absolutely stunning, I take just a couple of extra steps ? peeling and seeding the tomatoes, straining the intensely-flavored juice that runs out of them, and adding that to the sherry vinegar-soaking bread. I use a vegetable peeler to peel the red bell pepper. And after I puree the soup in the food processor, I give it a whirl with an immersion blender to make it super-smooth and silky. The few minutes extra results in a gazpacho thatís out-of-this-world elegant.

A great Andalusian gazpacho depends on two things: ripe tomatoes with fabulous flavor and the right balance of ingredients ? including the vinegar and olive oil. If you get your hands on great tomatoes and use them in this recipe, Iím pretty sure youíll be blown away.

Either way, I generally use the same garnishes. If I make the super-smooth version, I make it more elegant by dicing them finely rather then chopping them in a hurry ó and sometimes add radishes or avocados.

You can also follow the lead of chefs and get all creative with the garnishes. Want to go super-splashy, maybe for a special dinner party? Top each bowl with a spoonful of lump crabmeat or diced cooked shrimp (or boiled tiny bay shrimp), plus some diced ripe avocado and a few pretty sprigs of frise.

Itís your gazpacho ? you decide. Now go ahead and give it a whirl!

óóó

GAZPACHO SEVILLANO

For a quicker, more rustic version, skip peeling the red bell pepper. Instead of peeling and seeding the tomatoes, cut them into big chunks.

Ingredients:

3 pounds ripe tomatoes

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

2 1/2 to 3 ounces French or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn or cut into small pieces (about 2 cups)

1 medium cucumber (English garden-variety or hothouse), peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

1 red bell pepper, seeded, peeled with a vegetable peeler and cut in chunks

2-3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed in a press

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

A pinch of Espelette, cayenne or Aleppo pepper

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup best-quality olive oil

See below for garnish options

Directions:

Peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the tomatoes in the water for 10 seconds, drain and run cold water on them to stop the cooking. The skins will slip off easily. Core them and cut them in half horizontally. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Working over the sieve so the bowl catches the juices, gently squeeze the tomatoes and use your fingers to remove the seeds, letting them drop into the seive. Once all the tomatoes are seeded, press the seeds with the back of a spoon to release all the juice into the bowl. Discard the seeds.

Add the vinegar and the bread to the bowl with the tomato juices (if you have indeed peeled them) and toss to combine. For the more rustic version, simply place the bread in a small bowl and pour the vinegar over it.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine about half the tomatoes, half the cucumber, half the soaked bread (with some of the liquid and half the red bell pepper). Transfer the puree to a large bowl. Put the rest of the tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining cucumber, soaked bread and liquid, bell pepper, garlic, salt, Espellette (or cayenne or Aleppo) pepper and the water, and puree till smooth. With the motor running, pour the olive oil in a stream through the top.

Transfer the contents of the food processor bowl to the bowl with the first batch, and use an immersion blender to make the puree as smooth and frothy as possible. When you think itís smooth enough, puree it a little more. Correct the seasoning, adding salt or red pepper if needed.

Chill, covered, in the fridge about two hours. Or serve right away, adding a few ice cubes to each bowl. Either way, serve with whatever garnishes youíve selected ó either garnishing each individual bowl, or passing the garnishes at the table.

Garnishes (any or all of the following): Cucumber (peeled, seeded and finely diced), red, green or yellow bell peppers (or any combination, seeded and finely diced), radishes (sliced, diced or julienned), scallions, finely sliced (green and white parts), homemade croutons (small cubes), toasted pine nuts, chopped green pimento-stuffed olives, lump crabmeat, diced cooked shrimp, hard-boiled eggs (if you want to be fancy, dice the whites, push the yolks through a sieve and serve them separately; otherwise just dice them fine).

Makes 4-6 servings.

SOURCE: Cooks Without Borders

 

 


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