Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Around the World...Spain

It's hot, finally! We sure waited long enough for summer to arrive, just when it's about to end. It's in the 90's and I hate the heat - I feel like I'm melting. I find it's best to keep cooking to a minimum and eat cool, refreshing things.

Gazpacho is perfect for the heat. It's a cold, Spanish, tomato-based, raw vegetable soup originating in the southern part of Andalusia, Spain. The original recipe likely included stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar. Today's variations can include avocado, parsley, watermelon, grapes, meat stock and seafood. But in Andalusia it's usually bread, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar and salt.

Recipes I've researched vary in terms of ingredient composition, texture and viscosity and even where the recipe hails from. But no matter where it's from or what exactly is in it, gazpacho is the perfect way to use up the bounty of summer vegetables that many of you are enjoying (and I say this jealously because my garden won't produce jack).

Experiment with either of the recipes listed and add what you like or have on hand. Add more garlic to your taste (or less), vary the garnishes, use different kinds of tomatoes or multi-colored peppers, try it with red onion or sweet onions like Maui. There's really no way to mess up this soup. It's good any which way you make it. I mean, just look at this photo!

Garnishes are important and I especially like little croutons. If they are big chunky things, it just doesn't work. Make smaller ones. Also perfect as a topping are chunkier vegetables that are found in the soup, such as diced tomatoes or cukes. Sometimes things that don't appear in the soup, like chopped ham or hard-boiled egg, make it as a topping, or where I once worked, bay shrimp on top.

To make it more authentic, use Spanish sherry vinegar and Spanish olive oil. You can find these at Cost Plus World Market. While you're there, pick up a nice Spanish red wine to go with it, like a Tempranillo.

Andalusian Gazpacho

1 (2-inch-long) piece baguette, crust discarded
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (preferably "reserva"), or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
2 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (preferably Andalusian hojiblanca)

Garnish: finely chopped red and green bell peppers

Soak bread in 1/2 cup water 1 minute, then squeeze dry, discarding soaking water.
Mash garlic to a paste with salt using a mortar and pestle (or mince and mash with a large knife). Blend garlic paste, bread, 2 tablespoons vinegar, sugar, cumin, and half of tomatoes in a food processor until tomatoes are very finely chopped. Add remaining tomatoes with motor running and, when very finely chopped, gradually add oil in a slow stream, blending until as smooth as possible, about 1 minute.
Force soup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing firmly on solids. Discard solids.
Transfer to a glass container and chill, covered, until cold, about 3 hours. Season with salt and vinegar before serving.

Farmstand Gazpacho

2 cups peeled and diced (1/4 inch) hothouse cucumber
2 cups diced (1/4 inch) red bell pepper
2 cups diced (1/4 inch) ripe tomato
1/2 cup diced (1/4 inch) red onion
2 cups tomato juice
1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Place all of the diced vegetables in a large bowl. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and Tabasco. Season with salt and pepper and toss.
Transfer half of the mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse the machine on and off to coarsely puree the contents. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours before serving. You can easily double this recipe for a large party.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Print Friendly