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October 21st, 2017

The Kosher Gourmet

3 ways to make a great gazpacho: A Madrid chef reminds us how good the simple tomato version - and its creamy cousin - can be

Gabriela Llamas

By Gabriela Llamas The Washington Post

Published August 19, 2016

3 ways to make a great gazpacho: A Madrid chef reminds us how good the simple tomato version - and its creamy cousin - can be

  Dixie D. Vereen for The Washington Post

MADRID --- In Spain, there are as many gazpachos as there are Spaniards. Every family here has its own recipe with its own little changes.

I much prefer gazpacho made in a food mill, as that allows for some texture, and that is the way it was made when I was young. Nowadays it is done in a blender, but it does not turn out exactly the same. Machine-blended gazpacho with bread and olive oil is more like a salmorejo, but without that soup's creamy smoothness.

Although tomatoes and peppers arrived on our tables by the 16th century, red gazpachos that used them did not become popular until the 19th century. Big landowner families that had a lot of country employees generally had a "gazpachero," a man who would prepare gazpacho for the peasants working on their estates. These men made gazpacho by pounding the vegetable mixture in an olive wood bowl, as in a mortar. They were very patient, as it took quite some time.

The main difference between gazpacho and some of its variations lies in texture and emulsion. In a classic Spanish gazpacho, olive oil is simply stirred in at the end; in salmorejo, porra and other soups, the olive oil is emulsified, resulting in a brighter orange color and a smooth, creamy texture. Pipirrana's components are the same as those in gazpacho, but they are diced; with the addition of a little water or ice cubes, it turns into a liquid salad, and the bread is served separately, for dipping.

(When making salmorejo or porra, which use a greater amount of bread, it is a good idea to process the ingredients twice, to achieve a smooth, velvety texture.)

Gazpacho is a sophisticated dish that takes to a multitude of variations. But with all its versatility, it still requires a certain balance of components. In particular, too much sherry vinegar or garlic can ruin it.

Here in Spain, gazpacho can be a drink, an appetizer, a tapa, a dip, a sauce or seasoning, a starter, a main dish, even a dessert. It is eaten at any time of the day and at any time during a meal. Nothing is more delicious than a piece of toast smeared with a little gazpacho or salmorejo for breakfast! Gazpacho goes well with almost everything but is difficult to pair with wine. The best wines to drink with gazpacho are sherries (fortified wines from Jerez) and whites.

Gazpacho can be served in a glass or bowl, on a plate, as a dip, with the garnishes on the side or over it, but always fresh or cold - never frozen, though, except for the exotic creations of the most adventurous chefs. The traditional earthenware bowl is perfect to maintain its cold temperature during hot summer months.

Babies in Spain do not eat gazpacho because of the soup's vinegar content and use of raw tomatoes, which are not recommended for infants. But by age 4 or 5, children begin to get used to gazpacho. How much they like it depends on the amount of garlic and vinegar you put into it. Teenagers, on the other hand, generally love gazpacho and never seem to tire of it.

For one of my daughters, gazpacho was a late taste acquisition. She never wanted to eat anything red because she thought it looked too much like blood. I used to make green or white gazpacho for her. Then again, her brother never ate anything green: He thought it was like grass and did not want to be fed like a cow. Children.

When we were young, if there was no gazpacho during the week, we felt terribly disappointed. Today, I have to make a bowl of it almost every day. Even if the refrigerator is empty, as long as there is gazpacho, salmorejo or a similar soup, everyone is happy. We typically serve it in a consomme cup and saucer and keep it on the side throughout the meal. The same goes at my parents' house; every day in July and so far this month, there has been a gazpacho of some kind for lunch and dinner.

I like to try out new ways of making gazpachos, and I love to experiment with different tomatoes, different extra-virgin olive oils, different vinegars. We make a lighter or more substantial gazpacho, depending on the mood we are in or how hungry we are. If we are having guests over, it is a must, and everyone loves to share their home recipes or their gazpacho memories.

I grow cherries and olives, incorporating those fruits into my gazpachos. But this year I am making watermelon gazpacho; two years ago, it was strawberry. In fact, any time I make gazpacho, I add fruit - maybe a piece of peach or apple or another other fruit in a small amount. I find it balances the acidity of the vinegar very well.

In Spain, gazpacho is more popular than ever and a frequent source of inspiration for innovative chefs. Ramón Freixa's gazpacho at his eponymous restaurant is made with olives and olive salt. Joan Roca of el Celler de Can Roca serves a gazpacho in a beautiful presentation in which garnishes are artfully arranged in a bowl and the soup is poured over. Vegetable master Fernando del Cerro, now at Restaurante Lavinia, invented "gazpacho water," a delicate dish. Mexican chef Roberto Ruiz (Punto MX) makes an avocado gazpacho with a pico de gallo salsa. Diego Guerrero (Dstage) invented a beef-heart tomato, raspberry and jalapeño gazpacho. Malaga-born chef Dani García, at his Michelin two-star Restaurante Dani García, started a revolution with his cherry gazpacho and its garnishes of anchovies, pistachios and cheese "snow." Mario Sandoval serves a beet gazpacho with ginger, blue cheese and fish roe at Coque.

I make a pine nut gazpacho garnished with fresh herbs and fermented garlic. But one of my favorite recipes involves turning gazpacho into something else. Inspiration came from a young American chef on practice (staging) with me. He was extremely creative with our food, and one day turned gazpacho into a sauce for a cold dish.

Following his path, I mixed leftover gazpacho with cream cheese, diced vegetables and gelatin - along the lines of a savory, no-bake American cheesecake. The press-in crust is a quick blend of olive oil crackers, almonds, a little Manchego cheese and butter. Topped with herbs or anchovies and/or olives, then sliced and served on crisp flatbread or crackers, it's perfect, cool finger food.

CLASSIC GAZPACHO

4 servings (makes 5 1/2 cups)

This might be a bit thinner than the gazpachos you're used to, but its consistency is authentically Spanish.

Be sure to rinse the tomatoes before you use them.

Picual olive oil is recommended here for its buttery start and peppery finish; the picual olive is Spanish.

MAKE AHEAD: The vegetables need to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours and preferably overnight.

We found picual olive oil at Harris Teeter stores and Moms Organic Markets.

From Madrid chef Gabriela Llamas.

Ingredients

Generous 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes and their juices, hulled and chopped, plus diced tomatoes for garnish

1 small (3 1/2 ounces) seeded, chopped red bell pepper, plus diced red bell pepper for garnish

2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) peeled, chopped cucumber (seedless or seeded), plus diced cucumber for garnish

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 slice day-old bread (crusts removed), torn into small pieces, plus small croutons for garnish (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, or more as needed

1 1/2 tablespoons Jimenez or other good-quality Spanish sherry vinegar, or more as needed

Small pinch ground cumin (optional)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably picual olive variety, plus more for optional drizzling (see headnote)

Diced white onion, for garnish

Diced green bell pepper, for garnish

Steps

Combine the chopped tomatoes, red bell pepper, cucumber, garlic and bread, if using, in an earthenware or glass bowl. Add the salt, vinegar and cumin, if using, tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours and preferably overnight.

To make the soup the traditional way, mash all the ingredients in the bowl. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a separate bowl, then, working in batches, use a flexible spatula to push the mashed mixture, including its liquid, through the strainer. After you have extracted as much moisture as possible from the solids, discard them.

Faster ways: Process the marinated mixture through a hand-cranked food mill (using its smallest-holed screen); or place the marinated vegetables and their liquid in a high-powered blender and puree on the highest speed for about 1 1/2 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. (Discard the solids afterward for both of those methods, too.)

Stir the oil into the strained gazpacho. Taste; add salt and/or vinegar, as needed. Transfer to an airtight container; refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve chilled, with the garnishes on the side - diced tomato, cucumber, onion, and red and green pepper; and croutons, if using - for everyone to help themselves. Drizzle with a little oil, if desired.

Nutrition | Per serving: 320 calories, 4 g protein, 18 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

SALMOREJO

6 to 8 servings (makes 4 3/4 cups)

This is akin to gazpacho but made creamy and thicker with cooked egg yolks and day-old bread. It is inexpensive to make yet refined -- and a beautiful color.

Hojiblanca or arbequina olive oil is recommended here; the former for its slight sweetness, and the latter for its fruity flavor.

We found arbequina olive oil at Harris Teeter stores.

For striking color and flavor, add a beet; see the VARIATION, below.

Ingredients

5 1/4 ounces crustless day-old bread or firm bread

2 hard-cooked eggs, separated into yolks and whites

2 1/2 pounds hulled, peeled, seeded tomatoes (see NOTE)

2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more as needed

2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons good-quality Spanish sherry vinegar

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably hojiblanca or arbequina olive variety (see headnote)

3 1/2 ounces pastrami, for garnish

Steps

Place the bread in a mixing bowl; barely cover it with water and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain it and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Transfer the bread to the blender along with the cooked egg yolks, tomatoes, garlic (to taste), salt, vinegar (to taste) and oil; puree to an almost mayonnaise-like consistency.

Divide among individual small bowls or glasses.

Mince the remaining egg whites, then top each portion with a bit of them, and the pastrami. Season lightly with salt, as you like.

NOTE: To peel the tomatoes, score a shallow X in the bottoms. Submerge them in a bowl of just-boiled water for 20 to 30 seconds, then immediately transfer to an ice-water bath. The skins will slip off easily. Seed the tomatoes by cutting them into wedges, then removing the pockets of gel from each one.

VARIATION: Add 1 cooked beet (3 ounces; about the size of an apricot) to the blender and an extra small pinch of salt.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 8): 330 calories, 4 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

Gazpacho Cake

GAZPACHO CAKE

8 to 10 servings

This is an easy, refreshing way to use up leftover tomato-based gazpacho, and a finger-food-friendly way to take it on a picnic.

To make this nondairy, chef Gabriela Llamas says silken tofu or 2 extra cups of gazpacho can be substituted for the cream cheese used here; replace the small amount of Manchego cheese with an equal amount of extra olive oil crackers.

You'll need a 9-inch springform pan. If the weather or your kitchen is very hot, use the greater amount of powdered gelatin (2 3/4 tablespoons). Serve with crackers or crisp flatbread.

MAKE AHEAD: The crust needs to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. The undecorated cake needs to set, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (and up to a day in advance).

Ingredients

For the crust

A generous 6 ounces olive oil crackers (see headnote; may substitute other savory olive oil crackers)

3/4 ounce raw almonds

Scant 1 1/2 ounces (40 grams) aged Manchego cheese, grated (see headnote)

Scant 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 tablespoons powdered gelatin, or more as needed (see headnote)

1/4 cup cold water

3 cups Classic Gazpacho (see related recipe above)

About 2 cups (14 1/2 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature (do not use nonfat; see headnote)

Pinch ground cumin (optional)

2/3 cup seeded, diced red bell pepper

1/4 cup seeded, diced green bell pepper

1/4 cup minced white onion

1 small red hot chili pepper, seeded and minced

Kosher salt, as needed

Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

For serving

Snipped chives, for garnish

Quartered cherry tomatoes, for garnish (optional)

Fresh herbs (your choice)

Thin cucumber or green tomato slices, for garnish

Steps

For the crust: Break up the crackers, letting them fall into the bowl of a food processor. Add the almonds, cheese and butter; pulse long enough for the mixture to come together, with no big pieces of almond. Press into the bottom, and an inch or so up the sides, of the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use (up to overnight).

For the filling: Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small saucepan (off the heat). Once it has dissolved, add 2 tablespoons of the gazpacho; cook for 1 to 2 minutes over low heat, stirring, just until the mixture is well blended. Be careful not to overheat.

Combine the remaining gazpacho, cream cheese and the cumin, if using, in a high-powered blender; puree until smooth and no trace of white cream cheese remains. Add the gelatin mixture and puree just until well incorporated. Transfer to a mixing bowl, then gently stir in the red and green bell peppers, hot red pepper and onion. Taste, and add salt and/or black pepper as needed.

Pour over the chilled crust, spreading the filling evenly. Cover (not directly on the surface) and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight.

When ready to serve, run a round-edged knife around the inside rim of the springform pan, then remove the ring. Transfer the gazpacho cake to a platter; decorate the top with chives, quartered cherry tomatoes, if using, the herbs and the cucumber or green tomato slices.

Serve chilled.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 10): 360 calories, 9 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 28 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 490 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar

Llamas is a Madrid chef and cooking instructor at La Huerta del Emperador. She recently published "Let's Cook Spanish, a Family Cookbook: Vamos a Cocinar Espanol, Recetas Para Toda la Familia" (Quarry Books, 2016).

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