Monday, August 20, 2012

Creamy Andalusian Gazpacho

Hot tomato soup is great, but in the summer, with fresh tomatoes available, cold gazpacho hits the spot.

There are apparently many different version of this Spanish soup. I was most interested in the Andalusian version, which includes bread to give the soup added thickness.

Set the finely diced and salted vegetables in a strainer above a large bowl. The salt will break down the vegetables, exuding juice while releasing flavor.

As usual, the America's Test Kitchen crew has perfected a rather tasty version. I made very few changes and came up with a winner.

Andalusian Gazpacho
Adapted from Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz, America's Test Kitchen

3 lbs. tomatoes (I used standard-issue round red tomatoes), cored (I remove just the top inch around the part where the tomato connected to the vine)
1small cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded
1red bell pepper, halved, cored and seeded
1small sweet onion (or 1/2 large sweet onion), peeled and halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup stale white bread (the original recipe calls for a slice of high-quality white sandwich bread. I used up some old Tuscan bread, torn into small cubes)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. basil leaves, chopped into thin ribbons
Fresh-ground black pepper

1. Roughly chop 2/3 of the tomatoes, half of the cucumber, half of the bell pepper, half of the onion and the garlic. Place in a large bowl and toss with 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Set aside.

2. Finely dice the remaining tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and onion. Toss with 1/2 tsp. salt and place in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Set aside for an hour. Do not discard the juice that will exude (there will be about 1/4 cup).

3. Transfer the diced vegetables to another bowl. Add the bread to the exuded juice and let it soak up. Add the soaked bread to the bowl of roughly chopped vegetables and combine.

4. Transfer half of the mixture of roughly chopped vegetables and bread to a blender and blend on medium speed for about 30 seconds. With the machine still running, through the opening at the top, slowly drizzle 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I took about a minute to drizzle), continue blending until mixture is very smooth, about 3 minutes total blending time (note: the original recipe said to now strain the mixture, but I decided this was unnecessary, as it is very smooth and somewhat thick). Repeat with the other half of the vegetable-bread mixture and olive oil.

5. Combine the two batches of blended soup in one container (I used a pitcher), add the sherry vinegar, basil, fresh-ground black pepper and half the finely diced vegetables. Stir to combine. Serve garnished with additional diced vegetables.

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