Saturday, August 3, 2013

THE GAZPACHO DIARIES, DAYS 1-7

 
Andalusian gazpacho with all the trimmings.
Ben came in from the garden, dripping in sweat, poured a glass of chilled gazpacho and swigged it down. “Yes!” he declared. “Let’s have gazpacho every day.”

Gazpacho refreshes on a hot day.
“OK,” I said. “Every day for a month, gazpacho always on tap.” The essential survival method for an Andalusian summer.

I’m starting with traditional gazpacho, but then I’m also going to experiment with some variations on the theme. I want to test subtle differences in ingredients—olive oil varietals, different vinegars, types of tomatoes. I’m going to serve gazpacho for lunch, as a pick-me-up on a sweltering afternoon, for beach picnics, for tapas, as a starter for a dinner party.

The first gazpacho occasion arrived with a visit from New Yorkers, Carrie and Marc Bachman. Carrie was my publicist at HarperCollins, setting up book tours and media interviews when my cookbooks came out (MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN in 2002 and COOKING FROM THE HEART OF SPAIN in 2006). She’s now a culinary public relations freelancer (http://www.carriebachman.com) , handling such well-known authors as Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten and Nathan Myhrvold.

Carrie samples my gazpacho.
“When we first tasted gazpacho in Seville, we thought it had cream in it,” Carrie said. She joined me in the kitchen to make gazpacho. I used a blender to make a smooth emulsion of bread, garlic and olive oil, then beat in the fresh tomato pulp. It’s that bread-olive oil emulsion that makes gazpacho so creamy.

I served gazpacho on the terrace at sunset with all the garnishes—chopped onion, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and bread crumbs. Marc opened a bottle of chilled rosado (rosé). I passed a plate of tuna-stuffed eggs to fill out our light summer meal.

Making gazpacho takes only minutes. Whirl the bread, garlic and olive oil in a blender, beat in the tomato. Diluted with cold water, the gazpacho can be served immediately.



Essential Ingredients
Extra virgin olive oil is absolutely essential to make gazpacho. Otherwise, it’s not gazpacho. Bread is pretty basic, though I’m willing to entertain all-raw, gluten-free versions without bread. Salt, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice. While not all gazpachos are red, for this cycle, we’re counting tomatoes as essential.

Acceptable additions
Green pepper, cucumber, onion, ground cumin, pimentón (paprika).

What’s never, ever in authentic Andalusian gazpacho
No tomato juice. No canned tomatoes. No tomatoes dropped in boiling water to facilitate peeling them. No ketchup. No chicken stock or beef stock. No pepper or chile. No salsa. No beets or watermelon or strawberries.

To Sieve or Not to Sieve
I once had a fierce argument with a dinner companion about whether or not to sieve gazpacho. She swore that never, ever was it sieved. It’s true that, in its most rustic version, made in the fields, gazpacho isn’t sieved. However, most blender-made gazpacho is better if sieved.
Sieve the tomatoes.

My own method is to puree the fresh, raw tomatoes (and peppers and cukes, too, if using), then pass them through a chino, a conical sieve. That step removes all the seeds and skins. Only the tomato juice and pulp go into the gazpacho. The tomatoes can be prepared in advance of making the gazpacho.

To thin or not to thin
The bread-oil emulsion thickens the gazpacho, so it needs to be thinned with water. How much? I like gazpacho the consistency of light cream. You can drink it from a glass or spoon it up like soup. Be sure to taste after thinning and add more salt and vinegar if needed.

Cracked ice for a quick chill.
To chill or not to chill.
At its best, gazpacho is diluted with very cold water and served immediately. That’s because refrigeration damps down the sweet-tangy flavor of fresh tomatoes. Nevertheless, it is so refreshing and restorative when served icy-cold. So I almost always make gazpacho early in the day and chill it well. Not acceptable are ice cubes which cause the oil to congeal. However, cracked ice will do in a pinch.



A pitcher for easy serving.
How to serve gazpacho
A big earthenware bowl or tureen makes a beautiful presentation at table. But, the easiest way to serve gazpacho is poured from a pitcher. Use a pitcher with a lid and you can store it in the fridge. Serve gazpacho in tall glasses, goblets, mugs or short glasses for sipping (or swigging). Serve it in soup bowls with spoons. At a tapa party, put gazpacho in shot glasses for “shooters.” Plastic cups for beach picnics.

Serve gazpacho in bowls, glasses, mugs.

A basic recipe.
This is a starting point. I rarely follow my own recipe. Sometimes my gazpacho is thicker or thinner, more creamy (more oil), tangier. Ben says I don’t use enough salt. He also doesn’t like the addition of cumin. But, once you tune-in to the gazpacho mystique, you can alter it to suit your tastes.

Andalusian Gazpacho

Serves 6 to 8.

4-5 slices bread, crusts removed (4-5 ounces)
Water to soak the bread
5 ripe tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 cloves garlic
Small piece of green pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 ½ cups cold water

For the garnishes:
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
½ cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
2 slices bread, diced and fried crisp in a little olive oil


Day-old bread to thicken gazpacho.

Break the bread into chunks and soak it in water to cover until softened.

Puree tomatoes with blender.
Remove cores from the tomatoes. Cut them into chunks and puree in a blender or food processor. Press the juice and pulp through a sieve, discarding the bits of skin and seeds.





Squeeze the water from the bread and place it in blender or food processor with the garlic. Blend until smooth


Add the tomato pulp, green pepper, cumin and salt. With the blender running, add the oil in a slow stream. Notice how the mixture changes color, from pinky-red of tomatoes to creamy-orange after addition of oil. Blend in the vinegar and some of the water.

Place the gazpacho in a pitcher and add remaining water. Serve immediately or chill until serving time.

To serve: pour the gazpacho into individual bowls. Place each of the garnishes in small bowls. Pass the garnishes with the gazpacho and allow guests to serve themselves.

Serve gazpacho with chopped vegetables to garnish.

3 comments:

  1. In Minnesota we have such a short season for really good tomatoes. Everyone I know grows their own, as they are not good in the grocery stores. This will be a great way to taste the great flavor. Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. BarbLibrarian: Glad you enjoyed the gazpacho recipe. Home-grown tomatoes are best, even here in Spain.

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