What could be better on a hot summer evening than a refreshing gazpacho? You use the freshest tomatoes and cucumber and liquefy them to something that’s almost a beverage. But let me emphasize the “summer” part. For better or worse it’s now possible to buy heirloom tomatoes any time of the year. I don’t care what heritage of seed is being marketed, the tomato is a summer fruit. But Americans seem to require tomatoes and melons no matter what the season. The supermarket chains have caught on to this big time so they can sell you misshapen “heirloom” in December that has no flavor, just a texture like wood pulp for $5.99 per pound. Is that actually desirable to you? Enjoy the good things when they are at their peak. Buy them from the growers at your farmers market when they are ripe and delicious and haven’t been reposing in a room filled with ethelyne gas. In choosing your tomatoes for this recipe, no matter what the variety, select ones that share a consistent color if only for presentation purposes. —pierino
lbs heirloom tomatoes of your choice, dark red preferred
of 1 English cucumber, peeled
pimenton de la vera, or piment d’esplette (Spanish paprika)
cup good quality Spanish sherry vinegar*
cup Spanish extra virgin olive oil, such as Columela or Pons
Generous pinch of saffron
or 3 chunks of day old bread, crust removed, softened with water
Blanch and peel the tomatoes. Cut them into large chunks
Peel and chop the cucumber. Roughly chop the garlic
Soak the saffron in a very small bowl with just enough water to cover
Place all of the ingredients, including the water from the saffron into a powerful blender. Begin by pulsing a few times and then up the speed to full on liquefy. Strain into a bowl (don’t skip this step!) and refrigerate for at least one to two hours. The purpose of the straining step is to remove any seeds and give you a smooth texture
Presentation: you may need to use a whisk briefly if the oil has begun to separate. Taste for salt. I like to ladle the “soup” into glass coffee mugs or something similar. Do provide spoons, but using mugs or glasses allows your guests to drink the lees in their cup.
Note to cooks: I use the pimenton and saffron to brighten up the flavors. Some Spanish cooks will use cumin for this reason. I like a “cooler” summery flavor.
Variation; omit pimenton and saffron and substitute one jigger of Pernod diluted with ¼ cup cold water.
*The qualifty of the vinegar really matters. I prefer Cepa Vieja "Reserva".
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.