Last week with our temperatures soaring into the 100’s I was trying to come up with a light, refreshing menu to serve friends who were coming for dinner.
I wanted a menu for the most part which could be prepared ahead, and would require very little, if any, indoor cooking.
In looking through several magazines at various summer meals for inspiration, I was excited about the idea of making shrimp rolls… a take on lobster rolls, but less costly, easier to prepare, and just as delicious.
Fresh corn on the cob from the farmer’s market, and a lovely green salad brought by my friend pretty much completed our meal except for a light appetizer.
So what should I make?
Again, pouring over another selection of cooking magazines (that’s why I seem to never throw them away), I found the perfect choice in Cook’s Illustrated from August 2010. A Creamy Gazpacho ! I have made gazpacho in the past but this outshone that in many ways. As the intro to the article suggests…
Most Americans know gazpacho as a chunky liquid salsa. In Spain, the most famous version is a creamy puree. ..just about every part of Spain prides itself on its gazpacho, but most sources still point to Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region, as the soup’s home.
...Like the chunky, liquid-salsa interpretation popular in the states, the soup combines cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and tomatoes but adds bread (for body-and historical precedent), a generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil, and a bracing shot of sherry vinegar and purees the whole thing in a blender. The result? A creamy, startlingly complex soup…
Only one thing went wrong with the soup…I forgot to serve it!!!!! I had the perfect goblets chilling in the freezer and the finished soup chilling in the fridge., waiting for the last minute to be ladled into the glasses and garnished.
The problem was somewhere in between my serving a tray of melon with dry cured salami and prosciutto de parma, along with a platter of cheese and crackers,and some olives with drinks as we chatted in the family room before dinner…and giving my husband the shrimp skewers and buns to grill, and cooking the corn ….I forgot the beautiful soup in the fridge awaiting its debut on the table! Horrors!!!
And this was not discovered until I opened the freezer before serving dessert (the Triple Berry Buttermilk Bundt Cake) when there before me stood the frosted glasses!
All was not lost, though, because I packed up a container of the soup for our friends, and sent it home with them for lunch or dinner the next day. My friend reported back that they loved it and she will be making it after I post this blog.
I think the lesson here is I should have cut back on the munchies that we pigged out on before dinner, and maybe served the gazpacho along with either the melon and prosciutto or the cheese and crackers.
No real harm was done, and we all had a pretty good laugh about it, and enjoyed it the next day.
Here’s the winning recipe formulated through research and trial and error by Kenji Lopez-Alt, a writer and recipe developer for Cook’s Illustrated.
With the exception of substituting a red pepper for the green, I followed it pretty much to the tee. It’ s a perfect hot- weather, healthy addition to a summer meal or with a salad it’s a complete light lunch. The taste is sensational and I will be making it again before the summer’s over, and I’ll try to remember to serve it.
Creamy Gazpacho Anadaluz (Cook’s Illustrated, august 2010)
Note: For ideal flavor, allow the gazpacho to sit in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Red wine vinegar can be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Although we prefer to use kosher salt in this soup, half the amount of table salt can be used. Serve the soup with additional extra-virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, ground black pepper, and diced vegetables for diners to season and garnish their own bowls as desired.
3 pounds (about 6 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored
1 small cucumber, peeled halved, and seeded
1 medium green bell pepper, halved, cored, and seeded
1 small red onion, peeled and halved lengthwise
Kosher salt (see note)
1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crust removed, torn into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus extra for serving (see note)
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley, chives, or basil leaves (I used chives)
Ground black pepper
1. 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 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt; toss until well combined. Set aside.
2. Cut remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper into1/4-inch dice; place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetable. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and transfer to fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.
3. Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be 1/4 cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.
4. Transfer half of vegetable-bread mixture to blender (or food processor) and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 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.
5. 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. Serve, passing remaining diced vegetables, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and black pepper separately.