Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Scoop on Soup...

Pancetta Wrapped Scallops
Guacamole with Yucca Chips

Petrale Sole with a White Wine Mushroom Sauce
Roasted Artichoke Hearts, Baby Little Neck Squash and Pommes Parisien
Cheese Course with Bleu D’Avergne, Rebluchon and Concord Grapes
Mango and Blood Orange Marinated in Contreau and Tarragon served with Vanilla Ice-Cream and Biscotti

Gazpacho is a chilled tomato and bread soup and although I don’t know the exact origins of it, I know it is from Spain and I would imagine that there are probably are as many different ways of making gazpacho are there are Spaniards. Unfortunately in America gazpacho has become a bastardized, watered down version of salsa; the bread sadly left out for the sake of the carb-phobic; red onion, cilantro and chili’s thrown in to give it that mass Tex-Mex appeal (please people, can we get over the Tex-Mex thing and move on already?); and some harsh, lip smacking acidity such as red wine vinegar and/or lime… Why not just throw a gob of sour cream on top and serve it with tortilla chips? Oh wait, I think the TGIF’s is doing that already…

In a feeble attempt at creating something closer to the real thing than the breadless, soupy dip we’ve all grown accustomed to, I read a few different recipes and made a highbred which I hope captures the true essence of gazpacho and has none of the trademarks of that slop served up at the all-you-can-eat fajita factory in your local strip mall. The guests on the boat raved about it…

Cristina’s Gazpacho that Does Not Taste Like Salsa.
And for the love of God, don’t leave out the bread mom!

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes – Do not attempt this recipe with canned tomatoes or worse, tomato juice (sorry Ina, but your recipe for gazpacho kind of sucks).
2 Red Peppers
3+ cups day old bread – preferably baguette or a rustic country loaf; crusts removed, bread cubed and soaked in water for 10 minutes. Drained, but not squeezed out.
1 English Cucumber, seeded and chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, mashed with salt and pressed through a garlic press
2 Tablespoons Good Quality Sherry Vinegar – Quality really makes a difference. Check your local gourmet store for a good brand; Vinegar de Jerez. Good sherry vinegar has body, flavor and depth along with acidity. Cheaper brands are about as flavorful as citric acid. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, than I would suggest a combination of Balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar and perhaps just a few drops of lemon. But don’t use just straight up red wine vinegar, it’s much to tart and you’ll loose any subtlety in the ingredients.
2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil (or chives), finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Roast whole tomatoes in aluminum foil lined pan for 30 minutes.

Roast peppers over gas flame or broiler until skin is charred. Put peppers in a paper bag or covered bowl for 10 – 20 minutes, until peppers are soft and skin has loosened. Reserve any accumulated juices and peel and seed peppers using a small pairing knife (don’t rinse under running water, this washes the flavor away).

Peel tomatoes and add tomatoes and any juices to bowl with bread. Chop peppers and add to bowl. Add vinegar, cucumbers and garlic. Puree in batches in food processor. Add herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least three hours and re-season before serving. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a slice of avocado, if you must (my one concession to that dreadful Tex-Mex fad, I do love avocados…).

See, no red onion, no cilantro, no limes…

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