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Gazpacho

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Gazpacho is a vegetable soup, typically made with raw vegetables and served cold. Now if this sounds to you like punishment rather than great food, it is not please read on. I've been aware of gazpacho for about 10 years now. For about half of that time, I thought of it more like some sort of punishment. Something to eat which would be sent up to your room after you have been banished there for some nasty deed: "Go to your your room! I will send you up some cold soup later." Trust me it is anything but a punishment and is an absolutely wonderful summertime treat. This is hardly surprising, but the grilled variety is even better!

What is the gazpacho?
Gazpacho as we know it, originates from Spain. To be more precise it originates from the Andulucia region of Spain and is also popular in Portugal, where it is spelled gaspacho. There are all sorts of regional variations which use indigenous ingredients. Traditionally gazpacho is typically tomato based, with other ingredients typically being cucumber, stale bread, bell pepper, onion and garlic. The base for the soup is typically made from some sort of oil and vinegar. And finally there are additional ingredients such as hot sauce, red pepper flakes or chopped fresh vegetables added to the soup for additional flavor and hotness. Gazpacho is typically topped with one or more ingredients for garnish. These ingredients include chopped versions of some of the same vegetables used in the gas, or chopped fresh herbs, hard-boiled egg, stale bread or croutons, or diced onion or finally chopped scallions. Gazpacho is typically made ahead to allow enough time to chill it to its cold serving temperature. It goes straight from the refrigerator to the table and is joined by the garnish to be used with it. The garnishes are typically made just before the gazpacho is served. Modern gazpacho typically changes the colors of the gazpacho by omitting some or all the tomatoes and adding other vegetables to give it various colors.

What do I need to make gazpacho?
Traditionally gazpacho was made by pounding vegetables with a mortar and pestle. These days you need a food processor or blender to make it. An immersion blender also comes in handy as you will see shortly. If you are going to make grilled gazpacho, add a grill to the list. Other than that, you need some sharp knives to help cut the vegetables down to a uniform size for placement in the food processor. For me I prefer the food processor to the blender for making gazpacho. You can typically get more in the bowl of the food processor, the food processor seems to take less time and I like the consistency better. An immersion blender comes in handy to blend the various batches together. The amount of ingredients that you use typically exceeds the bowl capacity of even the largest food processor or blender. This means you need to make it in batches, which get mixed together in the container that you are going to use to hold and/or served at the gazpacho in.

How do I make gazpacho?

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Making gazpacho involves a series of typical steps: First the veggies are washed (top left). Next the veggies are cut down to manageable sizes, divided into 2 or 3 equal sized batches & placed in the bowl of the food processor (top right). The batches are processed & are poured into a bowl or the final serving container (bottom right). The finished gazpacho is seasoned to tasted & refrigerated for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight (bottom right).

Gazpacho is relatively simple to make. First you wash all of your vegetables. Then you peel the skin off the onion and garlic. Then you cut the vegetables down into more manageable and uniform sizes for placement in the bowl of the food processor or blender. Cutting them down helps them blend more quickly and more uniformly. Depending on the capacity of your food processor or blender, you are typically making 2 to 3 batches of puréed vegetables. So you need to divide the ingredients out evenly into two or three equal portions. The recipes I've made seem to be split into two distinct groups. The first simply take all the ingredients and add them to bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until they're puréed. The second group of recipes have you chop the solids like vegetables up first. Then you add in the oil and blend thoroughly, after which you drizzle in the vinegar. The second method is more akin to using emulsification for making a salad dressing. I notice no difference in taste between the two methods of making the gazpacho. After the batches have been mixed together in a serving bowl, you taste the gazpacho and add some seasoning if and as required. Don't be too radical with the seasonings at this point, the flavors will blend and meld during the gazpachos overnight stay in the refrigerator. Make your final adjustments just before serving. Blending the two or three batches together is where I often use the immersion blender to mix everything together thoroughly. The entire process from start to fridge, typically takes about 15 minutes.

At this point the gazpacho is placed in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. I actually pour my gazpacho right from the food processor into the soup tureen that I will be serving from. Since the lid of my soup tureen has a notch cut out of it for the ladle, I use plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band to seal the top. I put a piece of foil over that and secure it with a rubber band as well. On serving day you remove the cold gazpacho from the refrigerator and check it for consistency and seasoning. If the gazpacho is little too thick you can add in some water and remix. Once again, the immersion blender comes in handy for this task. Just before serving you prepare the ingredients for the garnish that is to be served with the gazpacho. The garnish is applied to the individual bowls, so people can use as much or little as they desire. I usually make a little more of the garnish than the recipe calls for. I find people tend to use quite a bit of the garnish.

What about grilled gaspacho?
I must be a little slow, because it took me quite a while to try and find a recipe for grilled gazpacho. I've long known that grilled soups are superior, at least IMHO, to most regular versions of the same soup. Grilled gazpacho is made exactly the same way as the traditional variety with one exception. Prior to blending the ingredients, the veggies are taken outside and get charred on the grill. Other than that, the preparation is exactly the same. Prepping the veggies for the grill and grilling them adds about 10 minutes for the prep time and 15 minutes additional for the grill time. But this extra time is well worth the additional flavors added to the traditional gazpacho. The veggies are often sliced to make more surfaces available for grilling. For grilling the veggies, I simply sprayed them with olive oil using my Misto mister, and then I season them with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. The veggies were direct grilled using medium-high heat until the skins were nicely charred. The veggies are then brought inside and allowed to cool until they are safe to handle. After that you proceed just as you would with a normal gazpacho recipe.

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Making grilled gazpacho adds some preliminary steps before pureing the veggies: First the veggies are washed & cut up somewhat to expose more surfaces for grilling. The veggies are sprayed with olive oil & seasoned with kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper (top left). Next the veggies are grilled until charred on all sides (top right). The grilled veggies are allowed to cool (bottom right). The veggies are cut up & divided into batches for processing (bottom right).

I didn't tell people that the last gazpacho I made was grilled. People noticed the additional richness of flavors immediately. After their first bite they were peppering me with questions about what was different about this gazpacho and why it tasted so good. They loved the other gazpacho recipes that I had made, but they could tell at the first bite there was something different about this one. There are plenty of grilled gazpacho recipes to be found on the Internet. When I looked I found a Steven Raichlen recipe at the top of the list. I was very glad to see it there, because I have never gone wrong with one of his recipes. But if you have a favorite gazpacho recipe, you could simply try grilling the veggies. I think you'll find that the resulting gazpacho is even better than the traditional version you've made in the past.

Final comments:
Gazpacho is a wonderful side dish to serve in the summer. It is an amazing blend of flavors both bold and subtle. Until you try cold soup,you can't imagine how refreshing it is on a hot day. The other advantage to gazpacho is it is a perfect make ahead recipe. It takes very little time to prep, and on the day you plan to serve it you simply pull it out of the fridge and do a little quick prep on the garnishes to be served with it. I have been pairing it with paella, which tends to be very prep intensive. Being able to pull the gazpacho out of the fridge and serve it makes my life easy because I just have to concentrate on grilling the paella. The paella typically has 15 minutes or so towards the end, where it is being grilled with the lid down and you don't have to do anything to it. This makes a perfect time to sneak back into the kitchen and prep the garnishes for the gazpacho. It also makes great leftovers since all you have to do is pull the cold gazpacho out the fridge and serve it. It is easy enough to make some more garnish if you happen to have run out.

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Gazpacho Andoluz - a traditional gazpacho (top left). Gazpacho Oriental - an Eastern influenced gazpacho (top right). Grilled gazpacho recipe: Gazpacho on Fire (bottom).

So don't let using the words "cold" and "soup" together in the same sentence put you off like it did me. Gazpacho is a wonderful, easy to make, easy to serve dish. It has wonderful flavor and is so refreshing on a hot summers day.

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