Sunday, November 20, 2005

GASP-acho

Today I received a cookbook in the mail to review. It was a nice book and I gave it a favorable review. One of the recipes brought back memories of the dangers of excess.

Gazpacho.

I learned to make Gazpacho from Pete the Gazpacho Master. I bow to his greatness. As an acolyte of Peter the Great I have come close to the exquisiteness of his vegetableness, but never quite met the bar he set all those years ago.

In short, Gazpacho is a cold, vegetable soup. Initially I was put off by all three words.

Cold.

Vegetable.

Soup.

Years previously I had an unfortunate and most remarkably bad, so bad it’s etched into my brain to this very day, of a cold, vegetable soup albeit consisting mostly of cantaloupe, a vegetable I would dispense with if I were King of the Vegetables.

OK, the purists will claim that the cantaloupe is a gourd or a pumpkin or a fruit or some kind of cow, but I don’t care. To me cantaloupe is survival food. If there’s nothing remaining to eat, and that includes family members, pets and the Pool Dude, I’ll munch on a cantaloupe. But, not until then.

Anyway, it was with some trepidation that I helped create a Gazpacho those many years ago. We chopped tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, Spanish onions, green onions, cucumber, celery and probably some other veggies I don’t remember. We added a can of beef consume, which, for a vegetable dish I though a bit strange, but in it went. Then some ketchup, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and possibly some other spices that I don’t remember, either.

The point is that once you have the basics, the details don’t matter all that much. Don’t have cucumber? Don’t add it!

The key was to chop everything very fine. And this is where I have come into conflict with Gazpacho recipes. Most recipes I’ve read call for a food processor. I tried this once and the result was this thick, yucky vegetable mess.

I repeat. I was unimpressed with the food processor, pureed version of Gazpacho. No character.

So, getting back to the gasp part, there are two features of Gazpacho that warrant attention: spices and time.

On the spice front, adding jalapenos, hot sauce and something called Wicked Death is excessive. This combination results in a GASP-acho that’s entertaining, but not very edible. If you’re serving it to your in-laws then I’d recommend a double dose of Wicked Death; the entertainment value is high.

But, if you’re making Gazpacho for yourself, avoid the Death and go for flavor.

That’s where time comes in. In my experience the Gaz is best after 24 hours but falls off quickly after that. Fresh Gaz is a little thin on flavor, and after a day or so it becomes soggy and a bit ripe.

I’d go for overnight. Make it in the afternoon and serve it the next day for dinner.

Finally, my chopped versus food processor rant.

Food processors will smooth things out and turn your Gaz into pablum.

I like the edginess of hand-cut vegetables. Individual chunks of vegie goodness give the Gaz character and makes it interesting to eat.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

7 comments:

The Girl Who said...

Just found your blog... Have been at work overnight and now I'm ravenous. Mmmm gazpacho

Shalee said...

As adventurous as I normally am, I think I shall pass on the "gag-acho". I'm thinking your beef stew with the funny turnip might be more up my alley!

Anonymous said...

I food process about 3/4 of the veggies and then hand chop the rest. The right balance between work and texture.

sarah said...

Wicked Death, eh?

You know, the stereotypes are true--we're from MN and so too much barbeque sauce will make my in-laws keel over! Those people think that pepper is a little too hot.

Pammer said...

Totally agree on the hand-chopping. I have enough food "texture" issues to EVER do that to yummy gazpacho!

Here, here, my good man!

Bret said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bret said...

Amen on the hand chopping. If it goes down too easily, well, it just isn't good.

But the ad hominem attack on cantaloupe is, well, a bit unseemly, don't you think? Honey dew, I could understand.