Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gazpacho - Summer's Delight

Gazpacho from Jose Andres' Jaleo Restaurant in Las Vegas
Gazpacho season is here, and not just for those living in the Palm Springs area and suffering annually through more than 120 days of 100º+ weather.  Every year we pour through cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, and websites looking for the perfect gazpacho recipe.  While many exotic (watermelon) and not so exotic (cucumber) varieties are offered, for me nothing beats a traditional  Spanish gazpacho.  By this, I do not mean salsa in a bowl with tomato juice.  That is not gazpacho.  And do not even attempt to pass off a jar of Pace Picante with Campbell’s Tomato Soup or V-8 Juice with Mirepoix as gazpacho.  I am talking about the real stuff

In doing serious research about gazpacho, I went to two authoritative sources:  my hairdresser, who is from Spain, and my Jose Andres cookbook.  I would love to say I spoke directly with Jose; however, I've not yet reached that status as a Culinary Diva.  My hairdresser, Miguel, said vinegar is the problem with most gazpachos.  Either it is left out or the correct vinegar, Spanish sherry vinegar, is not used.  Miguel’s opinion was confirmed by Jose, so I bravely decided to make “Tichi's Gazpacho” recipe from the Jose Andres cookbook. 

Is bravery needed to make gazpacho?  Yes, when the recipe is from Jose Andres, one of my very favorite chefs.  Jose is into molecular gastronomy, having worked with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and simple is not necessarily his mantra.  So this is not a “throw into the food processor, blend all ingredients and chill” gazpacho recipe.  It is slightly more labor intensive, but once you try it you will find it is definitely worth the extra couple minutes in the kitchen.

According to Jose, this recipe hails from his wife, Tichi, hence “Tichi's Gazpacho,” and is one of the reasons he married her.  That should be enough to sell anyone on trying this recipe.

Other facts useful in impressing your dinner guests:   This recipe is from the Andalucia region of Spain, which is known for sherry (which is why Spanish sherry vinegar is essential) and ham (and no matter how tempted you are to add ham to gazpacho, resist the temptation).  Also, Andalucía is the cold-soup capital of the world.  Who knew there was such a capital!

Make this recipe a day ahead if you can so its ingredients can properly meld and chill.  Also, enlist the aid of a trusty sous chef, mate or companion so the chopping and dicing goes a lot faster!

Quartered Plum Tomatoes

Mise En Place is always the best way to start
Tichi's Gazpacho
Serves 4

For the Gazpacho

2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes)
1/2 large English cucumber
3 ounces green bell pepper (about 1/2 bell pepper)
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

For the Garnish

3 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice rustic white bread (or equivalent)
8 plum tomatoes with the seeds prepared as "fillets" (this means slice into small strips so the seeds remain attached—if you don’t have a really sharp knife or the patience, just dice the tomatoes)
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 large English cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch segments
4 pearl onions, quartered and pulled apart into segments
1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
Sea salt to taste
4 chives, cut into long strips

Cut out and discard the core at the top of the tomatoes, chop the tomatoes roughly into quarters, and place  in a blender or food processor.  Peel the cucumber, cut into chunks, and add  to the blender/food processor.  Cut the bell pepper in half,  remove and discard the core and seeds, chop roughly, and add to the blender/food processor.  Add the garlic, Spanish sherry vinegar, and 1/2 cup water and blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid.  (The red tomatoes will have turned a wonderful pink color.)  Taste for acidity (this will vary with the sweetness of the tomatoes.)  If it's not balanced enough, add a little more vinegar.  Add the olive oil and salt to the mixture and re-blend.  Check the balance, add salt or vinegar if necessary, and then pour the gazpacho through a strainer (or a food mill) into a pitcher.  Refrigerate to cool for at least 30 minutes (overnight is even better).
Ready to mix

Drizzle oil into gazpacho mixture a little at a time

Mixture going through food mill

Gazpacho mixture after going through food mill - notice the silky texture - no lumps or bumps

While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the croutons by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium-high flame and fry the bread until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes.  Break the bread into small pieces to form 16 croutons, and set aside.
Garnishments ready to be plated

Wisk chilled gazpacho to make sure oil has been blended, oil can separate in the chilling process

When you are ready to serve the gazpacho, place 4 croutons, 2 "fillets" of tomato seeds, 6 cherry tomato halves, 3 cucumber cubes, and 3 onion segments in each bowl.  Add a few drops of the remaining olive oil to each onion segment, and drizzle a little more olive oil around the bowl.  Add a few drops of vinegar to each cucumber cube, and drizzle a little more around the bowl.  Sprinkle sea salt on the tomatoes and sprinkle chives over all.  Pour the chilled gazpacho over the garnish.  For the neat and/or flamboyant, do the pouring at the table.  For a much more casual presentation, no need to count the garnishments, just put what your heart desires into the bowl and pour gazpacho over it!

This recipe is guaranteed to elicit shouts of “Ole” and “Uno Mas” from your guests.
A More Rustic Version of Garnishment for the Gazpacho

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