Saturday, August 22, 2009

Gazpacho, anyone?

The South is hot in the summer. Yes, it is a generally known fact, but it needs reiterating. The funny (no, hilarious) thing is that we're having a cold front at the moment, which means it's in the high 80's in the day, and "cools" down to the high 70's at night. I generally love hot weather, I wouldn't be here if I didn't, but the times I don't love it are when my husband locks the A/C in at 82. Yes, that's 82 degrees inside my house. Those times I'm talking about are the months of June, July and August.

So a girl has to take matters into her own hands. Instead of fighting over the thermostat, I've developed a few lovely recipes to cool me down from the inside out. Gazpacho is my current obsession. It's cool, fresh, and tastes like a summer garden. I love to garnish it with cooked crabmeat or shrimp, or just enjoy it on its own. I also make it because it never gets old to hear my husband ask if we're having "gestapo" for dinner.

Some people have an aversion to cold soup, simply because it is difficult to wrap your mind around a chilled version of something that is “supposed” to be hot. If you are a fan of regular tomato soup, or V8, you will find gazpacho to be simply a bowl of chilled tomato juice topped with all sorts of delectable goodies. The shrimp and onions are optional, simply because everyone has different tastes. Onions may be too pungent for some, and if you are entertaining vegetarians, the shrimp is easily omitted. The most important thing is to use high quality ingredients. The tomatoes must be ripe, red, and fragrant. Heirlooms would be fabulous for this recipe, but I'd stick with the red varieties for the color. I also find that avocado is a must, because the smooth texture contrasts wonderfully with the chunky cucumbers and peppers.

Chunky Gazpacho
Serves 4 as a main course

3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 of an English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 of a small red onion, chopped
1/2 of a red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 cups V8
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped avocado (about 1 half)
1/2 of a small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¼ cup chopped red onion (optional)
4 large cooked shrimp with tails (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. In a blender or food processor, mix a few cups at a time until just slightly chunky.*Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Ladle into four bowls. Mix all topping ingredients except for shrimp in a small bowl. Place a small mound of topping mixture on each bowl of gazpacho. Arrange one shrimp on top of each bowl. Serve with crusty bread with warm goat cheese spread (below).

*this was a recipe where I was ecstatic to use my KitchenAid immersion blender. It pureed the vegetables just enough without liquifying them, and took about half a second.

Warm Goat Cheese Spread
Serves 4 as an appetizer or a side

The crowning glory on this meal is actually the side dish, a warm goat cheese spread on a crusty baguette. The pairing of the cool, crisp vegetables and gooey, salty goat cheese is a match made in heaven. Even people who claim they dislike goat cheese can’t pass it up.

1 4 -ounce log of fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 French baguette, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix goat cheese and olive oil in a bowl and spread in a ramekin or a ceramic crock. Grind pepper over cheese mixture and bake in the oven until heated and creamy, about 8 minutes. Serve with bread.

No comments: