The days are getting shorter but still summer envelopes us until the season changes. Cold soups and chilled wines fill the hunger of our souls.
Splashes of verdant olive oil. Glorious summer tomatoes and crisp, fresh vegetables. Robust garlic and coarse Mediterranean Sea salt. Joined together, this rainbow of bold flavors becomes the classic Andalusian fare of cold gazpacho soup that has delighted the palates of generations of Spaniards and Americans alike.
Centuries ago, gazpacho was a peasant dish; a simple combination of olive oil, stale bread, garlic and vinegar. But today, chefs all around the world are reinventing this simple summer soup, thickening it with crusty bread, serving it in chilled, glass shooters, and adding a variety of surprising ingredients. Inexpensive, healthy, and simple and quick to make, it’s no surprise this soup is rising in popularity. Take this sunny soup and create your own lush variations, no matter the ingredients, gazpacho thrives on hours in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld and ripen.
Nothing pairs better with this chilled Spanish soup, than a glass of chilled Spanish wine. Whether sparkling, white or rose, a plethora of choices await, anxious to excite your palate and thrill your senses.
Sparkling wine is a fabulous way to address the textural contrast in gazpacho head to head. Pop the cork on a bottle of Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut ($10) and let the little bubbles work their magic. The lively textures of the methode champenoise bubbles will heighten and broaden the flavors of the soup. The blend of the three white Spanish grapes Macabeo (35%), Xarel-lo (25%) and Parellada (40%) overflow with earthy flavors and notes of tangerine and lemons, and has just enough acidity to balance the gazpacho and make the dish shine.
White wine aficionados will be tickled by the taste of Vionta Albaria 2006 ($18), especially when sipped alongside spoonfuls of crisp, cold gazpacho. A zesty and refreshing pour, this bright white overflows with green apple, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon essences complementing the salty flavors of the gazpacho and leaving behind a clean and fresh finish.
Tasting of ripe cherries and raspberries crowned by a light touch of sweetness makes Segura Viudas Brut Rose ($10) in no sense austere. This carmine pink colored bubbly exhibits a charming, vivacious personality. The nose is full with aromas of currant and grenadine that flirt with your palate while the intrinsic hint of sweetness is a pleasant contrast to the soup’s acidic tomato base. The surprisingly crisp finish acts as a mouthwatering temptation for the next shooter of gazpacho.
For a warm weather picnic or a casual dinner party with a Spanish flare, nothing says summer like the pairing of these two classic refreshers: Gazpacho and Spanish wine. When trying to find that perfect pairing, choose wines that taste fresh, since gazpacho, after all is filled with fresh, seasonal fruits of the vine. Most importantly, serve both chilled for the ultimate refresher!
Gonzalo’s Andalusian Gazpacho
Penelope Casas: La Cocina de Mama¡, page 93. Broadway, 2005 Serves 6
- 2 1/2 pounds very ripe and flavorful tomatoes, quartered
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, coarsely chopped, plus more fore optional garnish, finely chopped
- 1 2-inch bread cube cut from firm-textured French-style loaf, crusts removed
- 2 tbs. sherry vinegar
- 2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, optional
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil, preferably Andalusian hojiblanca
In a food processor place half of the tomatoes, the garlic, pepper, bread, vinegar, salt, cumin, if using, and sugar. Blend until no large pieces remain. With the motor running, add the remaining tomatoes, and when well processed, gradually add the oil. Beat until as smooth as possible.
Pass through a food mill or strainer, pressing with the back of a metal soup ladle to extract as much liquid as possible; discard the solids. Chill for several hours or overnight. Tast the salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary. If desired, thin with ice water and pass bowls with a garnish of peppers so that guests can help themselves.
Chef Mariano Fernandez, Cafe Madrid, Dallas, Texas.
- 4 1/2 cups diced, seeded watermelon
- 2 small tomatoes (about half a pound)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small red bell pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbs. sherry vinegar
- 6 slices bread (soaked in water and drained)
- 1 tbs. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cucumber
Place the seeded watermelon pieces in a blender.
Blanche the tomatoes and quickly chill them in ice water. Remove the skins and put the flesh in the blender.
Remove the top and seeds from the bell pepper, chop coarsely and place in blender.
Add to the blender the drained bread, garlic, salt, sugar and sherry vinegar and blend until smooth. With the blender still on, add olive oil in a slow stream until fully emulsified.
Pass through a fine strainer and chill in the refrigerator for several hours to allow the flavors to set. Keep the soup it in the refrigerator until it is to be served.
Add additional salt if necessary.
Before serving, garnish each bowl with diced cucumber and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Chef Reinaldo Alfonso, Chef de Cuisine at Chez Philippe, The Peabody Memphis, Memphis, TN.
Yields 6 Servings
- 1 European cucumber
- 1/2 white onion
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1 bunch green onions
- 4 oz. green grapes
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 12 oz. jumbo lump crabmeat
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 cup Toasted Almonds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Cut all of the vegetables into medium sized pieces.
In a blender, add the vegetables, grapes, apple juice, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar.
Start to blend on low speed and drizzle in the olive oil.Â Blend on high until a smooth consistency is achieved.
Taste and season to taste then chill in the cooler until very cold.
To serve, ladle in a shallow bowl about 6 ounces of the soup. In the center, add about 2 ounces of the crab meat.
Garnish with the almonds and drizzle some olive oil over the top. Enjoy.
Some suggestions for garnishes:
- Chopped cilantro
- Toasted croutons
- Chopped green or yellow bell pepper
- Diced hard-boiled eggs
- Sliced avocado
- Chopped cucumbers
- Minced red onion
- Chopped black or green olives