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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something foodie for the summer.

I'm trying to get back to blogging regularly, a process which, incidentally, you have the high privilege of witnessing. As is usual for me whenever I have to pick myself up and dust myself off – some days I feel as if I have a black belt therein – I go for the edibles and the potables.

Today is no exception.

This was prompted by a brief exchange I had on Twitter (you should hang out on Twitter with us, it's nice) in which I gloated, without the merest chemical trace of shame or compunction on the matter of my KILLER gazpacho.

Ovah heah (by which I mean the northern hemisphere) gazpacho season is upon us yet again, and as your go-to Iberic, it is incumbent upon me to set everyone straight on the procedural gazpacho process.

When you stagger into a tapas bar in, say, Sevilla, you will spy with your little eye a glass pitcher. Said pitcher it would seem to the casual and inattentive observer – not you, natch, but the casual and inattentive observer – to contain some sort of coral-colered milkshake. But no; rather this is for-real gazpacho. (You're as likely to get this in a bowl as you are in a glass, FWIW.)

The gazpacho you will find around the Anglosphere inevitably has a glaring defect. Basically it resembles a semi-Iberic bloody mary mix; thin, runny and overly tomatic.

What people don't realize is that gazpacho evolved as a way to redeploy leftover bread during the tomato season – kindly note that it shares more than section of DNA with panzanella – which were mortar-and-pestled with EVOO and assorted other veggies until a very velvety soup resulted.

This soup requires a blender in fine fettle, a food processor will not work properly (you need a VERY fine puree-ing action AND aeration . The foodiest types will have you straining through a chinois, but I don't, as I like the added heft provided by the solids.

(this makes 4 servings)

1 oz stale "rustic" bread, crust optional
½ lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled and stemmed (somewhat overripe tomatoes are fine and, if you were to use, oh, 8-10 oz. of tomato juice of the "passata" type, it'd be OK)
¼ lb. white or yellow onion (ideally a sweet onion, but this is optional; Spaniards like sharp flavors)
¼ lb. cucumber
½ lb. red bell pepper (some recipes will suggest green bell pepper, but I happen to HATE that vegetal taste…do whatever you want)
1-2 cloves garlic (In Spain they LOVE their raw garlic…tread lightly)
1 t sherry vinegar (if you don't have go 50-50 with red wine vinegar and a young, cheap balsamic)
¼-½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (depending on your preference) and if you have some fancy pants unfiltered stuff that cost a zillion dollars, this is the time to break it out.

Cut tomatoes in large cubes (you should have about 1½ cups). Squish out the seeds over a strainer set into a bowl. With a spatula, press down to release the "jelly" from the seeds. Discard the seeds. Put the strainer BACK over the bowl and add the tomato cubes. Salt them, and let them release the tomato water into the bowl with the jelly. Figure 30 min.

Tear the bread into chunks, place them in the bowl with the tomato fluid. Stir this so the bread can soak up the tomatoness and is soft-ish, say 1 or 2 minutes. Place the tomato chunks and the soaked bread in the blender vessel.

Peel and dice the onion (you should wind up with +/-1 c). Add the onion to the blender. Peel and add the garlic cloves.

Peel, seed (a spoon works nicely, but do whatever you want) and dice the cucumber (this should be just under ¾ cup), and add to blender.

Remove the stems, ribs and seeds from the bell pepper and then dice (figure 2 c of diced red pepper). Add to blender.

Add the sherry vinegar. If your blender sensibly allows you to dial the speed up, start on low and progress upward until you are going full speed. If not, start with the smallest possible pulses until you get to top speed. Whiz this all at maximum velocity until you don't see ANY flecks of anything. Slowly (slower than that!) add the EVOO to emulsify – think mayonnaise – and when it's 100% smooth, taste and season with salt and pepper. Blitz it at max velocity for about 30 seconds.

Serve in chilled shooter glasses or in bowls, accessorized with – slivered/diced as finely as your patience will allow – cucumbers, onions and/or tomato, and a swirl of EVOO.


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