Monday, September 11, 2006
Another Culinary Diatribe
Temperatures in Madrid have dropped in the past few days, which means I've probably made my last gazpacho of the season.
In truth, it took me a long time to learn to love gazpacho. Not only because, well into my twenties, I refused to eat tomatoes (until the fateful day when I passed a market in Caligari, Sardinia--how well I remember it!--and the red globes looked too delicious to pass up). But mostly because, even after I had learned to love the tomato, I only tried gazpacho in the US, where it tends suffer from a serious texture problem.
Namely, it makes me gag. Admittedly, I am overly sensitive to foods--oatmeal and rice pudding come to mind--that try to be soupy yet still have tiny solids floating around in them. The problem with American-style 'gazpacho' is that somewhere along the line, someone got the idea that all you do to make it is put a bunch of vegetables in the blender and push the on button.
Gazpacho, it's true, is easy to make. But it is not that easy. Any Spaniard will tell you that in order to get the emulsified creaminess that defines good gazpacho, it is not enough to blend. You have to strain as well. If you're too lazy to strain, well, you're too lazy to make gazpacho.
1 kilo ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into large chunks
1 Italian green pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into large chunks
1/2 a large cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic
4 inches of day-old baguette, crusts removed
2 TBS of sherry vinegar
1/2 cup (or more--Spaniards tend to use more) extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Throw everything except the last two ingredients in a blender and puree. With the motor on, gradually add the oil until the gazpacho attains the desired consistency (if you want it thinner, you can also add a little water). Add salt to taste.
With a wooden spoon, force the gazpacho through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract their full flavor. Discard solids. Refrigerate gazpacho until cold.
If you wish, you can garnish gazpacho once it's served, with chopped tomatoes, onions, cukes, and/or croutons. That is acceptable texture.