Saturday, October 8, 2011

Three Minute Gazpacho

Made a trip to Andy's and got some beautiful little cucumbers I've never seen before. They had a bumpy, leathery skin and firm flesh, almost like a zucchini, but small, inoffensive seeds. About half the size of a salad cucumber, they tasted great and were much less watery than the waxy green dildos normally available. I sat down to watch a baseball game and ponder what to do with them. When Heather summoned me and claimed to be near death from hunger, it gave me a perfect opportunity to try my hand at a gazpacho, provided I could complete the task in three minutes*, the length of a commercial break.**

I peeled two stout little fellows, cut them into segments and put them in the carafe of the blender. Their tiny, feeble little pips saved me the trouble of de-seeding them, a task that may have taken several seconds. To the cucumbers I added a smashed clove of garlic, a small purple heirloom tomato, half a small sweet onion, a cigar-butt-sized hunk of ginger and the flesh of both a fresh jalapeno and a little red cherry pepper, all cut into pieces. The peppers came from the alley. Way to go alley. I pulsed the vegetables for a bit to break them up, then added salt, pepper, Sriracha, olive and sesame oil, the juice of a lime and a glug of spicy V8.

Before juicing the lime I grated the zest and reserved it for later. Grating the zest off a lime has the same effect as massaging the pulp, which makes the lime give up more of its juice. If you're not using zest for anything you can just roll the lime on the countertop and crush it a little. Also, get one of those little lime squeezer things from the Mexican supermercado. They cost a buck or two and are super efficient at getting lime juice out of limes. Liquefying raw vegetables works best if there are smallish pieces in a wet medium rather than trying to turn big hunks directly into liquid. That usually just results in the blade whirring past the bigger pieces while punishing the puree, resulting in unpalatable chunks surrounded by overworked paste, so it's worth it to do the puree in two stages, first to coarsely chop the pieces, then with a little added liquid to make it smooth.

Another trick for pulsing larger batches, especially in a food processor rather than a blender, is to add some crushed ice with the vegetables at the beginning of the process. The ice pieces act as auxiliary blades to help break up the vegetables while preventing the soup from getting hot from the friction of the blade and motor. Keeping the vegetables cool is critical in a gazpacho, otherwise the cells break down and the soup separates into ugly layers of water and fibrous matter. Gazpacho needs to retain some hint of its constituent ingredients in the body of the soup, otherwise it's just salty Jamba Juice. I didn't bother with ice this time because it was a small batch and I was determined not to spend too long on it.

I finished processing the soup and poured it into a bowl on top of some finely-sliced scallions and the reserved lime zest. There was very little foam, but I skimmed off what there was and tasted the soup. It was bright and complex and satisfying, and the oil made the flavors linger a little on the palate while providing body. I was happy with it as it was, but in future iterations I may try adding a little fish sauce to see if that makes the flavors hang around even more. Tasting the gazpacho gave me the idea that this would be really good as a savory sorbet, so I need to get some into Tim Mydhuiette's hands before everything goes out of season.

The alley bounty provided me with an assortment of peppers to dice for garnish, so I made a tiny brunoise of green jalapeno, orange serrano and red cherry pepper and sprinkled them on the gazpacho along with some chopped tarragon from the alley. I finished the garnish with a little dollop of Greek Yogurt and a sprig of mint.

And I made it back in time to see the Yankees dump one.

(vg) (v) without yogurt

** Overheard re: Bishop and actress.
** We have TiVo but I like a challenge.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the advice regarding pureeing veg - I've always ended up with the aforementioned chunks of veg, mush, and bits of wooden spoon plunged in while the blades are still whirring.

    If you like gazpacho, try making salmorejo, it's thicker more concentrated Andalucian cousin. They serve it in little bowls in tapas bars in Seville, and it's made of tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil, and a little wine vinegar. It's served with a little garnish of chopped hard-boiled egg or ham on top. You don't need to eat much as there's so much taste to it.

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  2. steve. i take it you have a small garden in the ally behind EA?
    lets see a picture? im curious on other people urban herb gardens.

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  3. They might have been Lebanese cucumbers. They're considered "burpless" b/c of their small seeds and thinner skin, which is supposed to cause less gas production. I can see why they'd be great in gazpacho. I'll try using them next time.

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  4. Congrats, Steve! You got the tag stuff right! Yay!

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  5. Sonikboom, yes we have a patch about 2x10 feet out in the alley where we this year we grew parsley, mint, rosemary, sage, tarragon, five kinds of pepper, two kinds of basil and an onion. Previously we have also grown squash, oregano, catnip and two carrots.

    Shivonna, Andy's Market, where I got the cucumbers, has a big middle-eastern clientele, so that sounds about right.

    Boris, yes, I'm a goddamn genius.

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