10 October 2010

Gazpacho

Gazpacho in October you say? I wouldn't have thought it myself, but I'm trusting that Farmer Ted, who makes our weekly delivery, is not importing them from warmer climates, but rather upstate New York. The tomatoes and corn keep arriving each week, and while I'm not sure how this is possible, save that it has been a very mild fall so far, I'll take farm fresh, juicy red tomatoes for as long as I can get them. 

Turning to classic French cooking for to something like gazpacho seems a little overboard, or rather, unnecessary  to learn this classic summer simplicity in a bowl. My reasoning, beyond having gravitated toward Patricia Well's Simply French, presenting the cuisine of Joel Robuchon, (circa 1991), at the Strand a few weeks ago amid the massive selection of cookbooks there, was that a simple soup would be a good way to see just how amazing the "Chef of the Millennium" M. Robuchon is. In other words, if the most celebrated chef on earth is able to transform a cold tomato soup into something sublime, than it would be well worth my time to try out, say, one of his recipes taking a day-and-a-half.
The resultant soup is a good standby, classic Gazpacho (perhaps to the eyebrow raising of the Spanish?), without the fuss that I've seen in other recipes. Just by taking the care to finely prepare the three star ingredients of tomato, peppers, and cucumbers the flavor and texture of each shines through. For once in my life I actually removed the skins from tomatoes and was surprised at how easy it was.  I cheated a bit with the peppers and cucumbers and used my mini food processor to "finely mince" about half of both, chopping the other half by hand, and was really pleased with the consistency and glad for not having too many big chunks to contend with in a soup. Thank you Ms. Wells and M. Robuchon! On next to the roasted pheasant and braised endive!
Gazpacho, or "Spicy Tomato Soup with Peppers and Cucumbers"
Serves 4
Adapted slightly from Simply French

2 pounds tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tomato paste
sea salt to taste and ground pepper
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper cored, seeded and minced
1 long thin cucumber, peeled, large seeds removed, and minced
small handful fresh basil leaves OR
1/2 ripe avocado thinly sliced AND/OR
a few dollops of low fat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

In a food processor or blender, process the tomatoes in batches until just smooth.  Place in a large bowl and add water, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, and Tabasco and process until just blended. Taste for seasoning and then  prepare the peppers and cukes, adding each to the soup and mixing till combined.*

Top with either basil leaves and sour cream/yogurt, OR avocado and sour cream/yogurt and a side of either crusty, crunchy bread or even some nice tortilla chips if you like. 

*Robuchon keeps the tomato portion separate, ladling this into a bowl and topping with spoonfuls of the pepper and cucumber -- I prefer them all mixed together.   



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