Happy Wellness Wednesday to all of the weird and wonderful readers of this website. My weekly recipe post took a little vacation last week, while I was learning about genomic gymnastics at DNA Disneyland, but now I’m back in Seattle and ready to get cooking with a quintessential summertime recipe. If your curious about the past iterations of Wellness Wednesday, check out the “recipes” link on the top of the page. This week we are going to be making one of my favorite foods to sip and say: GAZPACHO SOUP.
Gazpacho is traditional to the Andalucia region of Southern Spain. Food historians seem to agree that the recipe has arabic origins. Apparently Gazpacho has its roots in ajo blanco: a mixture of garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and bread, pounded together in a mortar and pestle. When Christopher Columbus voyaged to America, one of his crew members presumably got the bright idea to mix fresh tomatoes into the, frankly gnarly sounding, garlicky-bready-paste-y mixture. Ahi esta! (As they’d say in Sevilla) A delicious soup was invented.
Gazpacho has come a long way since Cristobol Colon failed at finding a new route to India. You can find recipes with or without bread, recipes that use almonds as a base, and recipes using a cornucopia of different fresh vegetables for the bulk of the broth (this watermelon gazpacho from Mark Bittman looks AWESOME). I chose to concoct a traditional tomato Gazpacho, with a few marathonsam adjustments. I nixed the bread, and opted for a mix of heirloom and roma tomatoes. The heirlooms were gorgeous, so I left them unadulterated. The Romas weren’t quite up to the platonic ideal of summer produce so I blasted them under the broiler to concentrate the tomato flavor, and give my soup a smoky edge. Finally, because I needed some protein and carbs for a complete dinner, I whipped up some steamed baby potatoes and broiled some scallops with spanish pimenton to serve alongside my soup. All in all, this took me less time than it takes to set up a badminton net. My dinner tasted like pure, undiluted, 1000X Spanish summer in a soup bowl. The soup happens to be vegan, and gluten free, if you are into that. Come along with me, lets get in the kitchen, bust out our blenders, and ride the whirlwind to tasty-town. Vamonos a cocinar!
The cast of characters for this concoction includes:
5 ripe roma tomatoes
2 heirloom tomatoes
½ a cucumber
3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
First, halve the roma tomatoes and set them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Set the baking sheet under your broiler, and give the tomatoes a good charring.
Now, if you are lucky enough to have a garden that gives you perfect, homegrown tomatoes, this step is completely unnecessary (although you DO have to invite me over for dinner). Use those beauties straight-up: gazpacho is meant to highlight the highest aspects of summer flavors. I certainly didn’t adulterate the heirlooms that I used for this recipe. The reason I used those slightly unimpressive romas was because, as a poor grad student, buying three pounds of heirloom tomatoes is not economically feasible. I compromised by mixing raw, ripe heirlooms, with roasted romas. I think I got the best of both worlds.
A final aside about tomatoes, and then we’ll get back to cooking. Tomatoes are a great dietary source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and potassium. The carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes their ravishing ruby red hue is called lycopene. Lycopene is a super-star in the antioxidant world. Lycopene’s antioxidant properties are purported to reduce the risk of heart disease, macular degeneration, and certain types of cancers. There seems to be solid in vitro data that lycopene inhibits proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Studies on the effect of tomato or supplemental carotenoid consumption by people have yielded conflicting results, possibly due to the fact that different people metabolize lycopene differently depending on their genetic backgrounds. What I take away from all of this is: tomatoes are a great source of a potentially cancer-fighting compound, that may or may not have a hand in preventing heart-disease. Gazpacho soup is a healthful, vegetable-based dish. It won’t make you 10 years younger, or shrink your prostate all on it’s own. It WILL improve your quality of life because it tastes so darned delicious, and eating more plants is always a good thing. Ok, now it’s time for me to step off of my soap-box and get back into the kitchen. Time spent talking about clinical trials is time that could be better spent sipping on Gazpacho.
Before we got distracted by the anti-oxidant properties of phytonutrients, I asked you to chop some roma tomatoes and place them under the broiler.
While those tomatoes are getting a nice char on them, we will prepare the rest of the soup. You’ll need a food-processor. A high-powered blender will do in a pinch. If you do use a blender, you should puree your soup in multiple batches.
First, thinly slice the shallots.
Place the shallots in a small dish, add: three tablespoons of sherry vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and two tablespoons of water so that everything is covered.
Set the shallots aside, then roughly chop three cloves of garlic. There is no need to be perfect with your knife-work in this recipe: everything will be getting lusciously liquified further down the road. Add the garlic to the bowl with the shallots.
Take those beautiful heirloom tomatoes, give them a rough chop, and add them into the food processor.
Remove the seeds and ribs from your jalapeño (you really don’t want the capsaicin’s heat to overpower the flavor of the soup).
Those roma tomatoes are probably ready by now. Check on how they’ve been charring. Add your blistered tomatoes, as well as any juices they have thrown off, into the mix.
Dump the shallots, vinegar, garlic, and salt on top of everything.
OK. The hard part is over, and it really wasn’t that hard, was it? It’s time for the food-processor to do its duty and puree some produce!
While your soup is spinning, add 2 tablespoons of olive-oil directly into the feeder-tube. This gives the gazpacho a silkier texture, and an underlying richness.
After a few minutes everything should be nicely blended together.
Transfer the gazpacho to a tupperware, and cool it off in the refrigerator. If you want to enjoy the soup immediately, you could throw an ice-cube or two into the food processor at the very end, to chill everything down. I wanted to avoid diluting the flavor, so I made my soup ahead of time and gave it a few hours in the fridge. Gazpacho improves with time, as the flavors meld together. This recipe makes around four servings, and it’s even better the next day.
Gazpacho on it’s own is delicious. I highly recommend sipping a cup of chilled soup outside as a refreshing mid-afternoon snack on a hot summer day.
However, as I have explained previously, I require protein and carbohydrates to make a complete meal. You could serve gazpacho with crusty whole grain bread, and charcuterie (jamon iberco would be great, if you can get it), or maybe some brown rice and grilled chicken. To round out my summer supper, I steamed some baby red potatoes, there together a green salad, and made some simple spanish-style scallops.
Scallops are REALLY easy to cook (and are a sustainable seafood choice because they are low on the food chain). All I did was toss my scallops with a little bit of olive oil, smoked spanish pimento dulce, and salt. I broiled them for three minutes on each side.
You don’t have to serve gazpacho with scallops, or do your scallops the way I did. However, this dinner turned out muy fantastico, if I may say so myself!
I hope that I have turned a few of you, my gentle readers, into Gazpacho guzzlers. Happy Wellness Wednesday everybody. Buen provecho!