Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No-Heat Meals

Monday: Gazpacho con Tropezones

I think cooking with no (or minimal) heat is going to be the theme of the week around here; we are already experiencing a record-breaking heat wave, and it's only supposed to be getting hotter. Of course, since this is unusual for the PNW, we don't have air-conditioning. We actually only own one fan. (And apparently we've become heat wimps since leaving the midwest.) Fortunately for us, this is also the height of the season for all kinds of delicious foods which don't really need much messing with to be a meal. Gazpacho takes advantage of this, especially gazpacho (like this one) which doesn't use tomato juice.

Gazpacho is nostalgic for me, since it figures fairly prominently in one of our all-time best vacations. It was actually a "staycation," I guess, before anyone used that word. It was over the fourth of July weekend, and we both took an extra day off, so we had four days to just enjoy ourselves at home.

We got up a bit late and had breakfast at a little cafe near our house, usually just pastries and excellent espresso. Their courtyard (really just the alley between their building and the one next-door) is FILLED with all kinds of flowers and birdbaths and it was a lovely place to linger. We spent the rest of the morning and the early afternoon just puttering about, and then went back to the cafe for lunch. It was just serendipity that one of us ordered gazpacho on the first day of our vacation, but it was so exquisite, so much the essence of summer, that we ordered it every day thereafter.

It was a perfect gazpacho: balanced, refreshing, with just the right amount of texture, and just a bit spicy. That soup ended up embodying a lot of the spirit of the weekend - my mental image of the vacation is sitting in Crema's lovely courtyard, slowly savoring it as Victor and I talked, and talked, and talked. This gazpacho can't hope to recreate that, but it definitely brings it to mind in a wonderful way.

Gazpacho con Tropezones
adapted from deliciousdays

  • 2 slices of stale white bread
  • 500g ripe tomatoes (about 2 large or 3 medium), chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined, and diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • ~1 tsp fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a good pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 4-5 tbsp fruity olive oil
  • a small handful of ice cubes

Put the slices of stale white bread in a bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside. Chill serving bowls or glasses (optional).

Prepare the vegetables:

  • Chop half the onion, half of each of the bell peppers, and half of the cucumber. Reserve the other halves for making the tropezones. Put the chopped veggies in the blender with the tomatoes.
  • Peel the garlic cloves, then cut them into thin slices and add to blender.
  • Prepare the tropezones: Cut the reserved bell pepper, cucumber and onion into neat little cubes or bitesize pieces - they will become tropezones ("stumbling stones") in your final soup. Set aside for later use.

Add the diced jalapeno to the blender and mix at medium speed until your vegetables have turned into juice and their blender volume has decreased significantly.

Add the bread slices (no need to squeeze out the water), season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, chili flakes, vinegar, and olive oil before putting the blender to work again. Mix until the Gazpacho reaches a smooth consistency.

Season to taste and pour into bowls (if you like your soup really cold, add one or two ice cubes to each bowl). Serve with a handful of tropezones, drizzle with some more olive oil and a good pinch of black pepper. Enjoy immediately.

serves about 2 as a meal on a hot summer evening

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