Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a quintessential summertime soup, loaded with a healthy bounty of all that is ripe and delicious this time of year -- kind of like having a bit of your vegetable garden served up on a spoon. If you have a sassy garden, that is. And...of course...a spoon that's chilled!

The base of a great gazpacho begins with tomatoes... in this case, fresh and canned. So... if you love tomatoes, then this is a summer soup for you. We do happen to love tomatoes. A piping hot tomato-basil soup served up in the winter? Perfection. A fresh, flavorful panzanella salad? bread! A simple caprese salad? cheese! (Or, even a spicy, brunch-time Bloody Mary! vodka, hiccup). It's really just about a tasty tomato... dressed up and delivered.

This particular gazpacho incorporates a bit from all of these favorites (yes, bread...and even elements of the Bloody Mary... sans the alcohol) to produce a refreshing and satisfying layer of flavors. Tomatoes, cucumber, celery, basil, parsley, and fresh lemon juice give it a wonderful, authentically fresh veggie base. The bell peppers and carrot provide just the right natural sweetness, making it unnecessary to add any sugar. And, the fresh garlic, white wine vinegar, tabasco, worcestershire, cayenne, and olive oil provide just the right medley of seasoning to enhance this soup's rich, slightly sassy bite, without overpowering the mix.

While many gazpachos begin with tomato juice and/or fresh tomatoes, I blend a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes with a few fresh tomatoes to get the base of the soup started. I just think they offer more flavor than a simple tomato juice would. Then everything gets roughly chopped and dropped into the processor to blend. Once it's well blended, you just pop it into the fridge to chill for at least two to three hours... or even overnight. It's that easy!

The great thing about a good gazpacho, apart from its refreshing flavor, is it can be served up as an elegant, simple luncheon soup or a light dinner; or even as a fun appetizer/starter, slurped from a glass while you mix and mingle (something like this);

The fact is that it presents so beautifully -- simple, yet elegant -- and then, once tasted, let's you know that it's really just a sassy-little-chilled-veggie-bonanza-on-a-spoon sort of soup. (How fun to be gazpacho!)

Summer Gazpacho
serves 4 to six

1 28-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 cucumber, unpeeled (keep a 1/3 aside to finely dice and lightly peel, if you like some chunk in your soup)
3 large tomatoes (again, keep one aside to dice and add to your soup once blended if you want additional chunkiness)
1/2 large red onion
1 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 stalks celery
1/2 cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
10 to 12 leaves fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 drops tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 slices whole grain bread (soaked and then squeezed to remove water)

suggested toppings:
diced avocado
fresh white corn
chopped cilantro
chopped hard-boiled egg

1. Place two slices of bread in a shallow dish, add water to soak. Set aside.

2. Place canned, crushed tomatoes in processor and blend, until liquified. Pour mixture out into a large glass bowl. Set aside.

3. Once bread has soaked (5 minutes or so), remove it from water and squeeze each slice well to remove all retained moisture. Set aside.

3. Roughly chop cucumber through basil and begin adding vegetables to processor in batches to blend. (note: if you like your soup to have a bit more chunkiness, set aside 1/3 of the cucumber and 1 tomato to dice and add to mixture once blended.)

4. Chop garlic cloves and then smash it into a pulp with the side blade of your knife, using a sprinkle of salt to help break it down. This will amplify the potency of the garlic a bit but it also ensures that it will mix in thoroughly with your soup. (If concerned about garlic flavor, omit one clove). Add to processor.

4. Add remaining ingredients, through bread, to processor. Process in pulses to ensure all ingredients are well blended and incorporated. Add mixture to puréed tomatoes in bowl. Mix well, cover and chill for three hours, or overnight.

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