Friday, June 25, 2010

Spanish Style Gazpacho

Jeff and I went to Spain last year and fell in love with one of their national dishes—creamy gazpacho soup. The refreshing soup was an inexpensive lunch and lovely respite from the sometimes blisteringly hot weather in Andalucía. I had never been a fan of gazpacho because I don’t care for green peppers, and the American version of this vegetable soup usually has a lot of big chunks of pungent peppers. Not so the Spanish version, which is delicate and creamy with a dollop of diced cucumbers and tomatoes on top.

When we came back we tried to recreate the soup and must have tried a dozen or so recipes, but never quite hit the perfect combination of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. With warm weather finally arriving, I’d been thinking about making a chilled soup and noticed this months’ issue of Cook's Illustrated had a gazpacho recipe in it. Jack pot! The lovely light flavors brought back wonderful memories of strolling through the beautiful hill towns of Southern Spain, where we stopped in small cafés for a bowl of their cool and tasty gazpacho. Ah, summertime.
Spanish Style Gazpacho
Serves 6
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes, cored
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded
1 small green pepper, halved, cored and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and halved
2 medium garlic gloves, peeled and quartered
2 small serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and halved lengthwise
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 slice sour dough bread, crust removed and torn into small pieces
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbls. sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in large bowl. Add garlic, chile, and 1½ teaspoons salt; toss until well combined. Set aside.

Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into ¼-inch dice; place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with ½ teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.

Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be about ¼ cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl, using back of ladle or rubber spatula to press soup through strainer. Repeat with remaining vegetable-bread mixture and 1/4 cup olive oil.

Stir vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours to chill completely and develop flavors. Garnish with a heaping tablespoon of remaining diced vegetables.

Tips and Tidbits
The salting process means you don’t need great tomatoes to make a tasty soup. The soup lasts for at least a week in the refrigerator.

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