Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tried and True - Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a cold soup - a liquid salad really - almost always tomato based. A gift to us from the Spanish cuisine. Like Italian minestrone, it is one of those recipes that seems to have infinite variations. That is certainly okay and I encourage you to be creative with your gazpacho. However, in cooking as well as music, before you start to riff, some classical grounding can be very helpful. It is dangerous to just go to and pick out the first gazpacho recipe you see. No guarantee it is even close to the "real thing".
Today's Gazpacho recipe is based on my own survey of the literature and personal preference. Just remember, there is no registration for gazpacho at the U.S. patent office. There is no gazpacho certification and licensing board.

The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking (1997) confirms this - saying "there are numerous varieties of gazpacho in Spain--a white one from Malaga, made with garlic, bread and almonds and garnished with green grapes; a cumin-scented one from Granada; even a stewlike game-filled version from Alicante. The most familiar version is this one--an Andalusian "pureed salad" of summer vegetables. Classic gazpachos are thickened with bread, although many contemporary recipes, like this one, omit it."

The recipe below is my version of classic gazpacho.  It is a good starting point - and maybe it will suit you.  Or you can develop your own spin, if you wish. Then you can write it down on index cards and pass the recipe on.  Call it "Bob's Gazpacho". (Unless your name is Jane. Then call it "Jane's Gazpacho".)

Your family and friends can either follow your recipe slavishly or create their own adaptations. Some of them may make this soup a little differently each time. I do.  I think it is kind of like old time folk music. Old tunes are handed down for many generations. The tunes stay the same, but every new musician develops their own personal rendition. Which maybe is a little different each time they play it.

Some basic things to know about classic Gazpacho are that it must be served ice cold, it almost always includes tomatoes and olive oil and all the vegetables in it are raw.

Andalusian Style Gazpacho
Makes about a half gallon, or 8 cups.

1 cup tomato juice (can use a puree from fresh tomatoes or use home or commercially prepared tomato juice)
This is what one pound of tomatoes looks like.
2 pounds fresh tomatoes (4 cups coarsely chopped - ok to use skins and seeds.  If desired, put through a food mill to remove skins and seeds)
1/4 pound onion (1 cup coarsely chopped)
1/2 pound peeled cucumber (1 cup chopped - no need to take out seeds)
1 t. minced fresh garlic
1/4 pound fresh bell pepper (1 cup coarsely chopped)
1/4 cup each - olive oil and vinegar (either red wine or sherry vinegar are good)
1/2 t. salt
1 minced jalapeno pepper (optional - or use more or less)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.  You will probably have to do this in two batches.
Optional variation:  Add 2 cups cubes of stale bread to the vegetables - firm artisan country style white bread soaked in about 1 cup water first.
Garnishes - I like to add a little texture to this soup.  Chop (medium or fine) about 1/2 cup each of onion, cucumber and sweet pepper.  Mix together and add to soup as a garnish.  You can also add homemade croutons (bake bread with a little olive oil and garlic) as a garnish - especially if you decide not to thicken the soup with bread.

A note on herbs and spices -  I have seen gazpacho recipes call for parsley, dill, cumin, cayenne or tarragon.  If you have good tomatoes and fresh garlic and olive oil, I suggest you hold off on herbs and spices - at least at first.  Add later if you wish.  I have come to believe that just a little parsley is all that is needed.

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