Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Cup Of Liquid Summer

This has been one of the mildest summers in recent memory, one that has propelled me out of the kitchen and into the sunshine. I would rather spend time out on my roof deck than turn on the stove, and that is why I am a gazpacho-making fool these days. By whipping up a large quantity of this cold tomato soup, I have something bright and nourishing that will last me throughout the week without my having to slave away in the kitchen each day. This gazpacho is infinitely satisfying for a light summer meal enjoyed either indoors or outside, yet it also feels festive enough to serve at a party.

Technically I should probably call this Chilled Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup. I know this is a slightly bastardized version of authentic Spanish gazpacho, which traditionally is made by soaking chopped fresh tomatoes and a bit of stale bread in water and a bit of olive oil, to which chopped cucumber and garlic are added to make a cool refreshing soup with a little bite. I have the traditional tomatoes, cucumbers and garlic going on in my version, though I’ve also added red onion and peppers and enlivened it with white wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice. A heaping spoonful of grated horseradish gives it even more pizzazz.

A food processor makes light work of it, as you can pulse each vegetable individually to shred them into finely chopped confetti.

I got the idea of using canned tomatoes a few years ago when I went to a cooking class given by Louis Lanza, the chef-owner of both Josie’s and Josephina’s restaurants on the Upper West Side. He used canned organic tomatoes for his gazpacho as the class took place in the spring before tomatoes were at their peak. Shortly thereafter, I began experimenting with gazpacho recipes, and I knew I’d struck gold when I tried this with the canned Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes. I loved the smoky roasted-over-the-campfire flavor that these tomatoes impart, so much so that I’ve made my gazpacho that way ever since, no matter what time of year it is.

The presence of this gazpacho is always a happy addition to any meal, for it is a veritable cup of liquid summer. It explodes with sassy tomatoes tempered by the cool crunch of cucumber and red onion, vibrant for both the palate and the eye. Pair it with a big leafy salad and a glass of zippy sauvignon blanc for a satisfying summer lunch, and you will still have room for dessert. It travels well for picnics, and I find it equally delightful when eaten out of a plastic cup or served in my finest bowls.

And in a similar way to how my Smoky Guacamole is one of my major party staples, this gazpacho recipe has also become one of my time-honored standbys for summer entertaining. I have thrown many summer parties on my roof deck for which I have made an entire VAT of this gazpacho, and invariably my friends want the recipe. Until I throw my next party, I am happy that I can share this recipe with you today so you can enjoy making it in your own kitchen.

Very loosely inspired by a recipe in Totally Dairy-Free Cooking by Louis Lanza

I have played around with gazpacho recipes over the course of many summers, but this is my favorite. It is important to chop each vegetable separately to get the right texture, but a food processor makes this a snap. As with most soups, this gets better the longer it sits as the flavors come together and get to know each other. If you can’t find the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, use your favorite brand of tomatoes.

1 unpeeled hothouse cucumber, halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 red peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
2 28-oz. cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
32 oz tomato juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
The juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons horseradish
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your fondness for garlic)
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place the cucumber pieces in a food processor fit with a steel blade and coarsely chop, taking care not to over-process to a puree. Scrape the cucumber into a large mixing bowl. Chop the red peppers and red onion pieces in the same manner, followed by the fire-roasted tomatoes, and combine all the vegetables in the mixing bowl. Add the tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish, garlic, and cilantro. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill the gazpacho at least 2 hours before serving. (This tastes even better the next day.)

Makes 14 cups


Sato said...

This looks great Louise! Check out my Spanish gazpacho recipe on my wall on Facebook. I was given an immersion blender a couple of years ago, and have found it to be super useful in making soups. Gazpacho is a breeze if you put all the ingredients in a bowl and stick in the immersion blender. It's so much easier to control the final texture, and for winter soups it's easy to blend half and leave half in the original texture. It seems to be a ubiquitous appliance in European kitchens.

louise said...

Thank you, Sato! Your gazpacho recipe looks fantastic, and I will have to try your very authentic-looking version soon. I absolutely love my Braun immersion blender, and it is something that I use regularly. In fact, it was the one kitchen appliance I had when I moved into my first apartment in college, and it STILL works like a dream!