White Gazpacho + Summertime

So far, here's the summary of summer:

  1. Ryan left for London. As a result, I keep running out of water, all my electronics are never charged, and I've been forced to kill not one but TWO cockroaches. No Ryan = household apocalypse. 
  2. My best friend was married in Cabo and I got addicted to Cheladas and Micheladas. I'm drinking one as I write this.
  3. My students are working on the ridiculous projects with which I've tasked them: an opinion piece on the American version of the television show, The Office; a movie review blog, current topic Finding Dory; and a blog about field trips around the South Bay of LA. Yes, I'm prepping the youth of LA for their future lives!! If only someone had forced me to have a blog in middle school. (Actually if only blogs had existed when I was in middle school.)
  4. Bavette Meat & Provisions is undergoing some major growth and development and I'm pretty overwhelmed about it. More news on that to come.
  5. I'm on strike from turning on the oven or the stove and thus all future recipes will require minimal, if any, cooking. It's getting hot in here!

That brings me to this white gazpacho. I guess I always thought gazpacho was of the tomato variety only, my knowledge of Spanish cuisine being pretty limited. Then, I stumbled upon this recipe in the ridiculously beautiful Tartine Bread cookbook and I decided it seemed like the perfect creamy, luscious alternative to the tomato gazpacho I consume by the gallon-full in the summer. (I have no air conditioning, people. And my apartment has east-west facing windows.)

I have one major issue with the recipe as it's written in the book. It doesn't tell you how fine a mesh strainer to use to strain the soup. From my past as a cook, I assume that they pushed the soup through what we call a chinois in the restaurant industry- a cone shaped super-fine mesh strainer that yields a perfectly smooth result. Of course, I should have a chinois at home, but I don't. So, I used a coarser strainer for half the soup- a much easier task- and a very fine (and ridiculously tiny) strainer for the other half- a task so annoying I wished I'd never begun. If you have a super fine strainer that is of a reasonable size (like, the size of a bowl), then feel free to use it. The result will be absolutely wonderful. But, if you don't, not to worry. A normal mesh strainer yields a lovely result, slightly more textured. You also waste less with the less-fine strainer.

Here's how much I care about the people who read this blog: I peeled half the almonds for the recipe, and left the other half unpeeled, so I could report to you whether or not it was worth it. I PEELED ALMONDS. Do you understand what I'm saying? One by one, over the sink, I squeezed the little suckers until they slipped out of their suits and into the bowl, clean and white. I'm a little disappointed to report that peeling the almonds does make a difference in the final result. Don't get me wrong: I will eat the version that I made with the skins on. But, the one that I made with the peeled almonds blended more easily and became more thoroughly homogenous. It was smoother and creamier- if only because it seemed that way by it's clean appearance.

Listen, if you don't feel like peeling almonds, I wouldn't judge you. But, I have to say, it didn't take all that long, and sometimes it's nice to spend time in the kitchen, doing repetitive tasks. When did it become the case that recipes have to be done in "30 minutes or less" or be "quick and easy." Maybe it's okay to allow ourselves the time to chill out and peel some almonds. Drink some wine while you do it. (Or a michelada?)

All that said, this recipe is simple in the number of ingredients, and remarkable in its final flavor. I'm planning on keeping a quart of this in the fridge at all times, right next to my quart of tomato gazpacho. That way, the stove stays off. 

White Gazpacho

Makes 1 approximately quart. Original recipe from Tartine Bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound raw almonds
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 slices day old country bread, about 1/2" thick
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

For topping:

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes or 1 regular tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon good extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chiffonade or finely chopped

Instructions:

  1. To make the white gazpacho, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the almonds and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Drain. If you want a pure white gazpacho, remove the skins from the almonds when they are cool enough to handle and trim the crusts from the bread. 
  2. Transfer the almonds and garlic to a blender. Add the bread and water. (If you don't have a strong blender, do this in two batches.) Add the salt and blend on high speed until the mixture is thick and smooth.
  3. Add the olive oil and blend again briefly.
  4. Pass the gazpacho through a strainer (fineness of your choice!) and into a large bowl. 
  5. Stir in the vinegar and lemon juice. The gazpacho should be the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in more water if it's too thick, and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. 
  6. To make the red gazpacho garnish, in a bowl, combine the tomatoes, grapes, and cucumber. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and the mint. 
  7. To serve: spoon the cold white gazpacho into shallow bowls and top with a few spoonfuls of the red gazpacho.