Tomato-free gazpacho

27th July, 2011 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

White gazpacho with green grapes

The weather is currently hot and will remain so until we all finally melt.

One of the many challenges of getting through a heat wave is eating; it’s too hot to think about cooking and the idea of heating hot meal is less than appealing.

This is a good time to start exploring cold soups. The Spanish have raised cold soups to an art form – which makes sense, they’ve had hundreds of years of hot summers to figure out what to do with their extra produce and leftover bread.

Gazpacho is traditionally a tomato and bread soup blended with other vegetables and spices. There’s also a sub-category known as Ajoblanco – which translates to “white garlic”  – that uses no tomatoes at all. The common ingredients with traditional gazpacho are bread, garlic, oil and water.

Depending on what part of Spain you happen to be in, ajoblanco is served with either a baked potato or fresh fruit. Since baking a potato involves turing on the oven, we’re looking at the fresh fruit variation.

To begin, dry out some bread. How this happens is up to you, it can either be toasted in a toaster, or – if you are planning ahead – left out on the counter for a day or two. White bread will make the final soup white, wheat bread will give it a little more body.  A crusty French loaf or baguette would be perfect. The Romans ate gazpacho as a way to use up their stale bread, so it lends itself well to more rustic loaves.

I would avoid strongly flavored breads like rye for this particular recipe, since the flavor will be too strong for the other ingredients. However, they would work very well in a tomato-based gazpacho.

Once the bread is dry, soak it in enough water to soften it up. The wet bread crumbs act almost as an emulsifier with the other ingredients and fresh bread won’t behave right – so don’t skip the drying step. Let the bread soak for an hour or so, then squeeze out the extra water and transfer to either a food processor or a mixing bowl.

The recipe below calls for using a food processor – which is great if you have one. If not, mix everything by hand and don’t despair. As I’ve mentioned above, this is a very old recipe that pre-dates food processors by several centuries. The soup will turn out fine, if a little chunkier than otherwise.

While the bread is soaking, toast the almonds. Always, always toast nuts before using them in any recipe. (The exception to this rule is pistachios, which are perfect just as they are.) Toasting brings the oils to the surface and makes the nuts more flavorful.

To toast almonds – or any nut – put them in a dry skillet or sauté pan over medium high heat and turn them frequently. Nuts tend to toast all at once, so even though it looks like nothing is happening, don’t stray too far from the stove. They also go from golden brown to burnt in about 8 seconds. And – as I’ve learned from hard experience – they keep toasting even after the pan has been taken off the heat. When your almonds are done, transfer them to a cutting board or paper towel right away.

Once all that is done, it’s mostly a matter of mixing everything together. The recipe calls for two cups of ice water, but let your eyeballs be your guide. I’ve made this with the full two cups and it’s been fine, other times I’ve only needed a cup to get the right consistency. I suspect it depends on how wet the bread it and how juicy the grapes are.

Using red grapes will make for an interesting color variation, no matter what, make sure the grapes are seedless. Life is too short to de-seed grapes for this recipe and they taste bitter anyway.

When it’s time to serve, any white wine or light red will work. My favorite pairing is a sparkling wine – Sierra Star Winery in Grass Valley has an almond champagne that is wonderful with this dish.  Enjoy and stay cool!

White Gazpacho
Serves 4

8 slices country bread
3 cups ice water
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 clove garlic
3/4 pound seedless green grapes
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and cayenne pepper
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced, for garnish

1. Lightly toast 5 slices of bread. Remove the crusts then set the bread aside to soften in 1 cup of water. Lightly toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat until golden, about 7 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a food processor add the garlic and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Squeeze the bread as dry as possible and add it, and about one-third of the grapes to the almonds. Process until the mixture is smooth.

2. Transfer the bread mixture to a bowl and gradually beat in first the vinegar, then 1/2 cup of the oil. Beat in the remaining two cups of water then strain the gazpacho through a fine sieve, forcing as much of the bread mixture through as possible. Season the gazpacho with salt and a pinch of cayenne and refrigerate until the soup is well chilled, at least one hour.

3. Before serving cut the remaining 3 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes. Fry the croutons over medium heat in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Cut the remaining grapes in halves or quarters. Serve the gazpacho in chilled bowls topped with the grapes, cucumbers, and croutons.

Tags: , ,

Posted on: July 27, 2011

Filed under: Soup, Vegetarian

No Comments

No Comments

Leave a reply