Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gazpacho for August

Will I ever be able to make or enjoy gazpacho without thinking of Pedro Almodovar's classic "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"? Hopefully not! Just the thought of an icy pitcher of sleeping pill laced gazpacho invites my queer mind to head off into plot possibilities even the great Spanish cinematographer might have blanched at the mere mention of...

But then there's also the exquisite sense memory of a blazing hot Andalusian summer afternoon in Seville; a city where the houses are purposely built so close together that the eaves almost meet, to provide street shade from the blistering sun. What else would you want for lunch than a tall glass of chilled liquid salad with a gloss of perfect olive oil? There lies the real reason gazpacho and I will always share a secret. Only travel can give you such a priceless souvenir.

In the years after that memorable sun stained vacation, my thoughts on gazpacho have relaxed and expanded. I've learned about the mellow and rich almond gazpacho from Malaga, and have been teased into a more global perspective of such a perfect hot weather solution to sustenance. It's important to remember that with most traditional foods, an important factor in the recipe was to use leftovers and the bounty of the garden in interesting and flavorful ways. More classic recipes for gazpacho will include a judicious handful of ground bread to add substance and sustenance.

In the recipes I'm setting out in the sun, only one uses the traditional thickening of pureed bread. And there it enriches the texture. Most modern recipes forgo the extra calories in lieu of a lighter fresher dish.

Classic Andalusian Gazpacho
10 plum tomatoes - peeled and seeded
1 red pepper - peeled and seeded
2 English (seedless) cucumbers - peeled and seeded
3 medium shallots - peeled
1 very small garlic clove - peeled
1 jalapeƱo chili - seeds and membrane removed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar or to taste
salt & pepper
2 cups tomato juice - approximately
1/4 cup diced peeled and seeded cucumber (optional)
1/4 cup diced and seeded yellow and/or red pepper (optional)
1/4 cup diced radish (optional)

(Note - I try to use a Y-Shaped vegetable peeler on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Blanching & shocking, or roasting cooks the vegetable more than I like)

Puree all of the vegetables in a blender(or use a food processor for more texture). With the machine running add oil, vinegar and S&P. Stir in tomato juice as desired. The better the tomatoes you use, the less juice you'll need.

Serve chilled with optional garnishes.

Personally I love the romance in the idea of keeping a pitcher of gazpacho at hand in the refrigerator, for heat and humidity swept summer lunches or break times. However the sophistication of the next recipe could also sit pretty on a weekend al fresco dinner table meant to impress.

White Almond Gazpacho in the Style of Malaga - sereves 4 - 6

4 ounces top quality bread - crusts removed (about 5 slices)
1 cup cold water
4 ounces sliced, blanched almonds
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small cucumber (peeled, seeded and chunked - about 1 1/4 cups)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (preferably reserva quality)
2 cups ice water
24 green grapes, peeled and quartered

Tear bread roughly and soak in water for a few minutes. Squeeze slightly dry and set aside.
In the work bowl of a blender (or food processor) combine almonds, garlic and salt. Grind until as fine as possible. Add soaked bread, bit by bit until it has pureed with the almond mixture. If you are using a blender you may need to add a few tablespoons of the ice water to get the bread to achieve a puree.
Next add the small pieces of cucumber and process until smooth.
With the motor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Add the sherry vinegar, and finally the ice water. Stop processing the soup.
Place a fine sieve over a bowl and strain the soup completely. Press on the solids left in the sieve to extract all possible liquid.
Cover bowl and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight. Check seasonings, adjust salt and/or vinegar if necessary.
Serve in small chilled bowls and garnish with peeled grape quarters.

And now, to insure that you my lovelies, continue to think outside of the box, here's a gazpacho that might be more at home in the equally sun baked sands of Phuket than the Costa Brava. I'm feeling a tall icy glass served by a Thai beauty in a sarong, nursing me from a morning hangover as I sit by the sea, my beach chair garnished with an umbrella. Heaven!

Thai Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho with Siamese Basil - serves 6 - 8

1 pound plum tomatoes - peeled and seeded* (see notes in preceeding recipe)
2 pounds seedless red watermelon flesh - rind removed before weighing
3/4 pound kirby cucumbers* - peeled and seeded
2 cups tomato juice - Looza brand preferred
3 tablespoons fresh ginger - peeled and minced
1/4 cup fresh thai basil leaves - loosly packed *
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves - loosely packed *
1/4 cup fresh cilantro - loosly packed
1 tablespoon jalapeno - peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

* Notes - Tomatoes and cucumbers are weighed before peeling and seeding
If Thai Basil is unavailable substitute Italian basil and increase mint to 3 tablespoons

And so beautiful readers, here's your chance to fill that blender with something besides Margarita mix. For us in the northeast, my sisters in the Midwest and my sexy mountain boys, we've only got another month or so to celebrate the sizzling hot and all the bounty it brings. Throw it in the Osterizer and push liquefy.
Happy eating my sweets.

No comments: