Gazpacho a la Menu del Dia


It has been a while since my last recipe post—the last one was this one for a cauliflower-corn soup. Five months later I have another soup but it’s tomato-based and is actually seasonally appropriate: gazpacho. The recipe is from Rohan Daft’s excellent book of traditional, hearty Spanish recipes, Menu del Dia. I’m about the opposite of an authority on Spanish cuisine and I have no strong opinions about how a gazpacho should be made but I can tell you that I prefer this gazpacho to the styles more commonly available in American restaurants. It is thickened with stale bread and it is pureed to a smooth consistency. In August in Minnesota we eat a lot of it in our house: it’s when the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in my garden are coming ripe and our CSA has fresh garlic: it’s the very taste of summer. 

Daft’s recipe does not call for orange tomatoes. I do usually make this with red tomatoes but this year it’s my jaune flamme tomato plants that have been the most prolific at this point and so I had a lot of them to dispose of (there’s some red tomatoes in there as well to make the recipe weight). The garnish is chopped green zebra tomatoes and chives (also not called for in the recipe). As long as you have good tomatoes it doesn’t really matter which variety you use. My other departure from the recipe in this case is to use my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo pineapple vinegar. The recipe calls for the traditional sherry vinegar—and it’s great that way—but with the tart-sweet jaune flammes I like the fruity tang of the pineapple vinegar.

Ingredients (from the book)

  • 2.5 lbs ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Sea salt
  • 2 ounces breadcrumbs (approximately 4 slices day-old bread, crusts removed)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tblspns sherry vinegar (or pineapple vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Preparation (my language)

  1. Mash the garlic with a big pinch of salt. I use a granite mortar and pestle.
  2. Soak the breadcrumbs (or in my case, coarsely torn pieces of bread) with a bit of cold water for a few minutes and then squeeze the water out and add it to the mortar and pestle with the garlic and salt and pound it some more.
  3. Puree the tomatoes with the garlic-bread mixture in a blender (or food processor).
  4. Throw in the cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks and the bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips and puree again till smooth.
  5. If your blender (like mine) isn’t big enough, pour out a bit of the puree and add first the olive oil and the the vinegar and ice water, bit by bit, to the puree, pulsing to combine as you go.
  6. Taste and adjust the vinegar and salt as needed.
  7. Refrigerate for at least a few hours.
  8. Garnish with chopped tomato and/or herbs and serve.

Notes

  1. One of the things I love about Daft’s book is how unfussy and flexible the recipes are. It recognizes that there is no single, “best” way to make traditional food and encourages you to tweak proportions and ingredients based on what you have at hand.
  2. The recipe calls for peeled tomatoes but I don’t bother (Daft notes that not peeling tomatoes is equally traditional).
  3. I’ve also made this with all green tomatoes (green zebras again) and all “black” tomatoes (mostly black krim and nyagous varietals). It’s hard to go wrong—you just have to taste and adjust the vinegar if the tomatoes are not acidic enough.
  4. I also sometimes substitute hotter wax peppers for the bell pepper or sweeter peppers like the cubanelle.
  5. The thing you shouldn’t do though, as the recipe cautions, is add ice or too much cold water. The final consistency should be thick. If the surface can’t support a garnish of chopped tomatoes then you may have added too much water.
  6. I’ve garnished it here with chopped green tomatoes and chives but frankly, I usually serve it ungarnished. I like the bite that chives give but you could just as happily add basil or a bit of fresh oregano (though I’m not sure if any of these are traditional Spanish additions). The recipe in fact notes that gazpacho is “sometimes served with a garnish of finely chopped cucumber, tomato, green pepper, onion, hard-boiled egg, and croutons”.
  7. If you have an independent bookstore in town—my town has the excellent Content—you should ask them to order Menu del Dia for you; if you don’t have a bookstore within easy reach, Amazon has it too.

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