2017-07-15 / Food

A cool soup for hot summer days

Staff Writer

It’s hot. I have a sunburn. I need a nap.

It’s summer.

When it’s this hot out, the last thing on anyone’s mind — or at least mine — is heating up the oven. And I certainly can’t stomach the idea of indulging in anything heavy, cream-laden or butter-basted.

In these trying times, I find it much more enjoyable to snack on some light, savory and flavorful fare, accompanied by a cool glass of wine. This recipe for gazpacho, a cold, tomato-based Spanish soup, is the perfect thing to slurp — or sip — on a hot summer’s day.

There are numerous recipes for gazpacho, some including watermelon, differing varieties of tomatoes and spices. What they all have in common, however, is a fine balance between full-bodied, fruity olive oil and acid, from either vinegar, lemon juice or both.

My recipe makes use of gold cherry tomatoes, which are plentiful this time of year and have a mildly sweet, yet earthy, flavor. I also throw in a few tomatillos, a Mexican relative of the tomato, that has a sweet-tart flavor and a gorgeous green color. It’s often found in salsas, but I thought its flavor would lend a pleasing complexity to the final product.

I’ve chosen to blend and strain my gazpacho; however, you could leave it chunky, skipping the blender altogether, or keep it mostly-smooth but with some additional texture. This recipe is inspired by the smoother styles of Seville, where it’s often served in chilled glasses for sipping.

Another advantage of my recipe is that it’s simple, meaning that it’s open for interpretation.

I’ve budgeted one or two jalapeño peppers, here, but you can make this as spicy or as mild as you like. You can also add more garlic, more tomatillos or lemon — take some artistic liberty, here.

The one thing to keep in mind is the balance between oil, acid and salt. The salt should tame the sweetness of the tomatillos and tomatoes; the vinegar and lemon should tone down the salt; the oil should provide a strong backbone for both. Adjust the seasoning to taste, but keep in mind each component should work in perfect concert with each other.

Untraditional in my version is the addition of red wine. It’s optional, but I advise you not skip it. It cuts through the fruitiness of both the tomatoes and olive oil, and underscores the peppery notes of the chiles and bite of the vinegar.

Plus, don’t you need something else to sip on?

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

Golden tomatillo gazpachoChock full of vegetables and fiery chili peppers, this gazpacho is a hot-and-cold and healthy dish. ALAN BENNETT/Journal TribuneChock full of vegetables and fiery chili peppers, this gazpacho is a hot-and-cold and healthy dish. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune
Time: 6 hours (30 minutes active)
Serves: 6

2 pints yellow cherry tomatoes
5-6 tomatillos, husked and cut in quarters
2 shallots, cut in quarters
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1-2 jalapeño peppers, cut in quarters
1 small cucumber, chopped
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 cup sourdough or white bread, torn into pieces
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup dry red wine (optional)
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
1 lemon, juiced
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
½ teaspoon red chile flakes, more to taste

In a small bowl, soak the bread and garlic cloves in the vinegar. Let stand for at least 15 minutes. The vinegar will soak into the bread and mellow out the raw garlic.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatoes, tomatillos, shallots, cucumber and jalapeño and pulse until mostly pureéd. Add one or two tablespoons of water if you find it hard to blend. (You may also have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your food processor). Add the bread, olive oil, wine (or 1/4 cup water), the lemon juice, parsley, salt, pepper and chile flakes and pulse to combine.

Transfer gazpacho to a blender and blend in batches until smooth. If you desire a smooth soup, the gazpacho can be strained through a fine mesh sieve. The solids can be saved and used for the basis of a delicious pasta sauce, or you can enjoy the gazpacho with a little texture.

Chill the gazpacho, at least four hours or overnight. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve garnished as desired, with thinly-sliced cucumbers, jalapeño slices, sprigs of fresh parsley and a good drizzle of olive oil.

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