I love the idea of tomato gazpacho–fresh tomatoes, red onion, celery, peppers, a splash of acid in the form of red-wine vinegar or lemon juice, maybe a Serrano pepper for heat, everything pulsed in a blender to make a pure refreshing distillation of late summer. New England tomatoes, arriving as they do around the third week in August, taste so good that they should be able to be dropped into a blender with a few other vegetables, given a good whir, and re-emerge as the summer drink of the gods.
It should work, and yet it doesn’t, not for me. Jody chopped and pulsed and seasoned for a week. Hybrid tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and a whole boxcar of gazpacho-y hangers-on.
To my taste, the results invariably came across as too thin, or too raw, with the tomatoes lost amid the mix of celery and onion and peppers, which led me to investigate other people’s gazpacho recipes. And guess what? I’m not alone. Lots of other people find fresh tomato gazpacho boring, which is why recipes for gazpacho with tomato juice or V8 abound, why some recipes deride the whole dump-and-pulse concept and call for roasting the tomatoes or peppers before blending them into soup. Anything to lend a little depth. But to my mind, once you start cooking (or adding concentrated juice or tomato puree, which amounts to the same thing) then the train has left station. You’re really making tomato soup, cold tomato soup perhaps, but tomato soup nonetheless.
While all of this tomato carnage was going on Jody was also playing around with a more intriguing alternative, a white gazpacho (no tomatoes) with almonds, grapes, melon, cucumbers and–a New England touch–smoked bluefish.
And this, I liked. First of all it was satisfyingly weighty (you feel like you have real food in your mouth) without being rich or heavy. Second, it wasn’t sweet – the melon and grapes balance against the savory ingredients, particularly the salty smoked bluefish in the garnish. I’ve never been a fan of fruit soups (okay, that’s two things I’ve said I don’t like in single post), but a touch of sweetness positioned against a salty adversary is delicious, and keeps you coming back for more.
White gazpacho doesn’t taste like a pureed corner of your garden, but it definitely evokes the summer. The next time you go to a farmer’s market buy some tomatoes–and save them to be relished on their own–and then grab a melon and few cucumbers for the gazpacho.
Almond – Grape Gazpacho with Smoked Bluefish
Makes 1 quart
Don’t let the ingredients list scare you. Most of this is coarsely chopped, blended in a food processor, and chilled. The major requirement for this recipe is patience, that is, waiting for everything to cool down.
Before chopping up all the vegetables, set a few ingredients aside and make the garnishes: 12 thin slices of cucumber, 2 thinly sliced olives, a couple of tablespoons of diced melon, and a few sliced grapes. Put everything in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the recipe.
Ingredients for the gazpacho:
- 1 cup ½-inch chunks crustless day old rustic bread
- ¾ cup blanched almonds
- 1 cup green grapes
- 1 cup ripe honeydew melon, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup chopped green olives
- 1 regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks, about 1 cup
- 1 yellow or green pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks, about 1 cup
- 3 scallions, both green and white part, cut into 1-inch lengths, about ½ cup
- 1 celery stalk, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks, about ½ cup
- 2 tablespoons chopped seeded Serrano pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Kosher salt
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Greek-style yogurt
Ingredients for the mint-yogurt garnish:
- ½ cup Greek-style yogurt
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- 2 ounces smoked bluefish, skin and dark flesh removed, shredded into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Combine the bread, almonds, grapes, melon, olives, cucumber, peppers, scallions, celery, Serrano pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and toss well. Allow to macerate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Combine the bread mixture with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. There should be have a nice balance of acid, sweet, and little heat. Return everything to the refrigerator and allow to chill for a couple of hours.
- To make the mint yogurt, mix the yogurt, garlic, lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mint. Chill.
- Ladle the gazpacho into bowls and garnish with a spoonful of mint yogurt, some shredded smoked bluefish, some sliced olives, cucumbers, grapes and melon. Drizzle with a scant half-teaspoon of olive oil, add and a sprig of mint and serve.
Spanish white gazpacho is traditionally made with a foundation of almonds and grapes. I’ve added olives, limes and lots of herbs. I like the way the olives and lime offset the sugar in the melon and grapes… and the herbs, well, I just can’t get enough of them.
The soup benefits from at least 4 hours of hanging out after processing so the flavors can marry. However, if you’re going to serve this right away and you want it to be really cold, put the bowl of macerating ingredients in the freezer for 30 minutes before processing.
In a recipe like this, the end product is all about the intensity of the ingredients. If the melon is ripe, the cukes are fresh off the vine, the peppers are crisp, the grapes are bright and the lime is sweet and sharp, you won’t have to do much tweaking of the recipe. However, if the melon is super sweet, the lime acidic, or the grapes more tart than sweet, you’ll have to make adjustments. That’s part of the fun–you never know exactly what will happen and you have to be prepared to improvise. If the soup is too sweet, add more lime juice. If it’s too sour, add a pinch of sugar. If it doesn’t taste rich enough, add more yogurt. If it’s too thick, add a little water… you get the picture. As for the garnishes, smoked trout or salmon would be great substitutes for the bluefish and smoked chicken would be a terrific alternative. And of course, you can just go without.
Roxanne calls this a vegetable smoothie, easy for drinking on a hot summer night while watching episode after episode of the creepy, but wildly addictive show, DEXTER.