Monday, August 27, 2007

Gazpacho Base
What better time to make a batch of piquant, refreshing gazpacho? You don't have to be a raw foodist or a vegetarian to enjoy this delightful cold soup. But if you are a raw foodist and/or a vegan, this simple mix provides some fine meals.

Most gazpacho instructions call for pulverizing or pureeing the veggies, in a food processor or a blender, for the base. Early this summer, I read a different approach developed in the Cook's Illustrated test kitchen, and I decided to give it a go this past weekend. I liked the results of dicing the vegetables instead of pureeing. I did give the bowl a couple of swirls with the immersion blender, to thicken up the juice before placing in the refrigerator, but left most of the diced vegetables in tact.
The recipe from Cook's makes about 3 quarts, 8 - 10 servings. You can easily halve the recipe, but the soup does keep well and the leftovers are just as good as the first time around.Ingredients: 3 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 medium red bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into slices then into 1/4 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1/2 small sweet onion, peeled and minced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
freshly ground pepper to taste
5 cups tomato juice
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional) or
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (optional)
8 ice cubes

Directions: Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar and pepper in a large (at least 4 quart) non-reactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes or so. Stir in the tomato juice *, hot pepper sauce, if using, and ice cubes. Cover tightly and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

To serve: Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes. Serve cold, drizzling each portion with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and topping with desired garnishes.
Traditionally, diners garnish gazpacho with more of the same diced vegetables that are in the soup. Additional garnish possibilities include garlic croutons, chopped pitted black olives, or finely diced avocados. With this treatment, so chock full of nicely diced vegetables, I served it as is, without garnishes or olive oil. Serving the soup in chilled bowls adds a nice finishing touch, too.
* I used a quart of Knudsen's organic vegetable juice in place of the tomato juice called for.
With fresh, garden tomatoes coming into season across the country, this is a terrific dish to prepare. Dicing the produce doesn't take much time and the results are worth every minute.
Till next time. . . To eat well; eat raw!

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