Demo Kitchen Recipes: Garden Gazpacho
It’s that time of year! The time when gardeners realize they have, yet again, planted more vegetables than they can possibly consume. The time when misers become magnanimous benefactors, delivering bountiful baskets of their surplus; even to the neighbor who doesn’t cut their grass often enough. The time when the local farmer’s market is a riot of fruits and vegetables in every color and shape. The time when the Binny’s Demo Kitchen revels in a singular savory fruit (although the category contains multitudes). The time when sweet, juicy, yet remarkably savory orbs of ephemeral delight burst with fructose, succulent umami and tangy acidity, their shiny skin radiant under the morning sun, reflecting light in the deepest, most saturated hues of red, yellow, green and even purple. The time when a little juice running down your chin is no reason for shame but a delight and a stain on your shirt is the intrepid eaters red badge of courage. In other words, it’s tomato season!
Yes, even though tomatoes are technically available year-round, modern science has yet to figure out how to replicate the dripping juice bomb that is the homegrown tomato in a hothouse. Grown in rich Midwestern loam and vine ripened under the light and heat of the August sun, late summer tomatoes are beyond extraordinary, bearing exactly zero resemblance to what passes for a tomato the rest of the year. Therefor it is our duty to indulge in all the fresh tomatoes we can get during this brief window and fall back on top quality canned tomatoes the rest of the year.
It was just the other day while eating a magnificent BLT (is there a better sandwich?), between involuntary little sounds of pure pleasure, that the Demo Kitchen was musing on the many minimalist masterpieces that can be made with a great tomato. The kinds of dishes that only require a handful of impeccable ingredients. The kinds of simple preparations that elevate and never obscure the tomatoes glory. We flipped through the recipe box in our mind’s eye, glancing at endless salads from caprese to panzanella, a symphony of sandwiches from a simple southern tomato and mayo, to pan bagnat to the ambrosial BLT we were eating and a plethora of pastas like spaghetti with roasted cherry tomatoes or perhaps sugo di pomodoro crudo, until we landed on the humble Andalusian icon that is gazpacho.
So easy, so flavorful, so refreshing in the sweltering summer heat and a great way to tackle an oversupply of glorious tomatoes. All it takes is a quick spin in a blender or food processor and some time in the fridge. You can go old school and pulverize the veg by hand in a mortar for a more rustic result, but the velvety smooth mouthfeel of rich Spanish olive oil emulsified with machine puréed veg is quite a delight. If you crave texture, make a little salpicon of the same vegetables to spoon on top along with a drizzle of olive oil. The real key to success here is the ripest of fresh tomatoes, plenty of flavor enhancing salt and a commensurate amount of vinegar to really make the dish sing. Don’t be shy about adjusting to your liking, it should really pop with flavor.
You can, of course, serve it by the bowlful with a tangy Manzanilla or Fino Sherry, a crisp, saline albariño or even an ice-cold glass of fruity sangria. Or pour it into little glasses to be passed as a tantalizing precursor to dinner. Either way it will serve as a showcase for your homegrown or peak season farmer’s market vegetables.
- 6 large, ripe, red tomatoes, cored and quartered
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 Anaheim or bell pepper, cored, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ cup stale bread cubes
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- ⅓ - ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Combine tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, shallot, garlic and bread in a blender. Blend at high speed until very smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- With the motor running, add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the gazpacho emulsifies and the texture is creamy.
- Pour through a strainer, pushing on the solids with a rubber spatula to extract all the liquid. Discard the solids.
- Chill until very cold.
- Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt, black pepper and vinegar. If it is too thick, stir in a little cold water.
- Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.