August 11, 2009 by
I don’t think there’s a food celeb that I love more than Lynn Rosetto Kasper. When she starts launching in to the intro for The Splendid Table, I start getting all giggly. Usually the boys have just come home from their dad’s and are hovering near, waiting for lunch, and I’m dawdling by the kitchen radio, listening to Lynn and how she knows about every ingredient under the sun.
Sometime in the last year, I heard a guest talking about real gazpacho, which we Americans, he asserted, have never tried. This salad-in-a-glass stuff misses the point entirely, as it’s been stripped of the things that make it delicious – namely peasant bread, and olive oil. Lots of Spanish olive oil.
Nothing wrong with salad-in-a-glass, of course, but I was interested enough to sock the idea away. And when I was looking for something easy and soup-ish to make for dinner yesterday, I remembered it. I gave it the full-on pitch as the boys and I were talking about the menu for Monkey Menu Monday, and asked if they’d help me pick the vegetables for it and help tear bread to smithereens. They nodded solemnly, looking a little confused as to what they were agreeing to, which seemed like a good enough starting place.
So off we went to the garden to hunt for the produce, and we went inside to start. They kept looking pointedly towards the TV and the copy of the Lion King we had picked up at the library, but I kept us on task until their pleas became verbal and loud.
By the way, parent friends: don’t show your 4 and 6 year old this movie unless you relish a discussion about why evil uncle lions kill their brothers and why vultures circle in the air above cute and sympathetic sleeping lion cubs. Oy.
But before I knew it, the gazpacho was ready. And oh geez. It was incredibly, rapturously, unusually good. Smooth, creamy, incredibly flavorful, tart and fresh. CrankyGreg pronounced it, “Exquisite.” My dad stopped by, had some, and then finished the leftovers.
It’s more work than throwing some vegetables in the blender, but nothing too hard. And you can have your kids help rip up the bread (I used the opportunity to help E. practice some knife skills by cutting the crusts off) and mash up the garlic and squeeze tomatoes. If they’re like mine that will be the pinnacle of their muy autentico experience, since they’ll hate the soup. But you will love it, I promise.
I skipped the suggested garnishes because I was sort of done with the chopping and whatnot by the time I had sweated my way to dinner. But I added in some tempeh croutons (marinate in some oil, vinegar and sprinkle of sea or kosher salt, then broil until browned) for protein, which were good and look awfully cute on the rim of the glass, no?
Authentic Andalusian Gazpacho
From The Splendid Table, adapted from The Greatest Dishes: Around the World in 80 Recipes Serves 6
- Four 1-inch-thick slices day-old coarse country bread from a round loaf, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
- 3 pounds ripest, most flavorful tomatoes possible, washed and quartered [According to TST, "do not use Beefsteak tomatoes." But why?]
- 4 T. good-quality sherry vinegar, preferably aged
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- Small pinch of cumin seeds or ground cumin
- Coarse sea salt
- 2 firm medium-sized Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled
- 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and seeded
- One quarter of a medium red onion, peeled
- 1/2 C. fragrant, fruity extra-virgin Spanish olive oil, preferably from Andalusia
- 1/2 C. bottled spring water, or more to taste
Garnishes (you choose):
- 2 to 3 tablespoons each finely diced cucumbers, peeled green apples, slightly
- underripe tomatoes, and green bell peppers
- Slivered young basil leaves
- Crispy croutons
1. Place the bread in a large bowl, and squeeze out the seeds and some of the juice from the tomatoes over it. Crumble and massage the bread with your fingers. Add 1 tablespoon of the vinegar and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a paste with the cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
3. Transfer the bread mixture to a food processor along with the garlic paste, and process until completely smooth. Leave this mixture in the food processor while preparing the next step.
4. Chop the tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, and onion into medium dice. Place the vegetables in a bowl, stir in three large pinches of salt, and let stand for 15 minutes so that the tomatoes throw off some liquid.
5. Working in three batches, process the vegetable mixture in a food processor until as smooth as possible, adding a third of the olive oil to each batch. (The first batch will be processed with the bread mixture.) Transfer each finished batch to a sieve set over a large bowl.
6. Pass the gazpacho through a sieve, pressing on it with the back of a wooden spoon. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar and the water. Adjust salt to taste. Chill the gazpacho for at least 3 hours before serving. (If making the gazpacho a day ahead, add the garlic 2 to 3 hours before serving, lest it overwhelm the other flavors.) Serve in glass bowls or wine glasses, with your selected garnishes.