Unlike pie, with its revolving rainbow of seasonal flavors, gazpacho doesn't seem like a fill-in-the-blank situation. To most of us, it spells one thing: tomatoes, cold, smooth, and punchy.
But in truth, anything can be a gazpacho. Early last summer at Savoy, I ordered a green one, which my server led me to believe included everything in the kitchen that came in green: grapes, cucumber, pepitas, all the herbs. So hey -- you can call that gazpacho.
Amanda also makes a smooth white version whose only fruit is in the garnish (32 tiny balls cantaloupe -- everyone's favorite garnish!). The rest is just garlic, bread, almonds, oil, water. This too, gazpacho.
As our friend fiveandspice pointed out, while teliing me about this genius recipe from Eleven Madison Park: it's just not fair that we should have to wait till the tomatoes roll around.
Why should we have to wait until August to have gazpacho, (what I consider) the best cold soup, and main reason to own a blender? It was 99 degrees in New York last week, yet there are no tomatoes coming out of the ground yet. It's not right.
Yes, you can find hothouse tomatoes at the Greenmarket, but those have been there since March, so I don't trust them. We should wait until there are heirlooms and beefsteaks that can barely contain themselves, that smell of green stems and ripe red juice.
For now though, it's the strawberries that are perfumed and yielding, in their deep red prime. So why not make soup out of them, and let tomatoes wait their turn?
If you think about it, a strawberry is the same as tomato, even if it isn't: both are fruit, juicy and sweetly acidic, red.
But strawberries aren't just willing understudies -- they bring their own personality to the gazpacho title: a tart, sweet, rose-colored ramp up to the glories of late summer.
Here's how you make it: Toast some bread cubes in olive oil, garlic, and thyme and pile them in a bowl (save some for croutons!) with a few pints of strawberries and all the familiar auxiliary gazpacho players -- bell peppers, cucumber, vinegar, olive oil, more garlic.
Leave them all to their devices for a few hours to soften, macerate, and take up each others' essences and surrender their own. Then, when they're a technicolor stew, blend it all together. And strain it, but only if you want to serve something slick, with less fiber.
Chef Daniel Humm also adds confited strawberries and planks of guanciale and constructs a little fairytale scene on top, and you can too -- or you can just do the soup (and the croutons).
At least around here, there are going to be a lot of hot nights between now and tomato time.
1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed but kept whole 1 1/2 cups whole grain bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 sprigs thyme 6 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered 2 1/4 cups English cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced 1 1/4 cups diced red bell pepper 3/4 cup diced green bell pepper 6 tablespoons tomato juice 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt Tabasco sauce (optional)
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."