by Peter Moore
Some years ago, as a friend’s mother was recounting the events of her Mediterranean cruise, she described Greek customs officials coming on the boat in Athens: “They went through everything, they were like the goddamned gazpacho.” It works best in a Texas accent, but in any event, it forever branded this cooling Spanish soup as “the goddamned gazpacho” for me.
And since it’s been warm, and the ingredients are at their peak at the markets, I’ve been hacking a recipe for gazpacho. (Cassoulet is more of a cool weather dish, anyway.)
A cold soup of raw vegetables, gazpacho goes back to the Roman times, though some accounts give it a Moorish origin. The original recipes call for a blend of garlic, bread, water, vinegar, oil, and salt pounded together in a mortar. Classified by color, it’s most often made with red, tomato base, though there are white and green variations.
I looked at what I had from the market and decided to go green. When I read the list of ingredients to Anita, she said, “That’s an awful lot of things, I think you should cut it down.” I’ll leave that for you to decide (as I say in the Notes on Ingredients below), but it is sort of a mix-and-match list. If there was a starting point, it was Yotam Ottolenghi’s green gazpacho recipe in Plenty , though that was really more of starting point than an actual recipe.
What I had was some red celery, nettles, basil, and Caroselli (a sort of melon/cucumber cross) from Annabelle Lenderink’s La Tercera. The garlic and cukes came from Alice at Moon Fox Farm. I picked up the lemon cucumbers and padron chiles from Quetzal Farm. A Golden Delicious apple came from Pomo Tierra Ranch. The lime came from Ram Das, the vinegar from Navarro Vineyards and Winery, the sugar snap peas from Swanton Berry Farm, and spices from Oaktown Spice Shop. The rest sort of filled itself in.
In addition to color variations, gazpachos come in varying consistencies. The first couple of times I made this dish, I used a food processor. It was a little rough, so I decided to go with a second mix in the blender—though if you’ve got one of those fancy big blenders you could do it all there.
2 ribs celery, chopped with leaves
4 assorted cucumbers (green, Armenian, lemon, Persian, or English), peeled, seeded, and chopped roughly
5 padron chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 New Mexico green chile, seeded, and chopped
1 Golden Delicious apple, chopped
1 cup nettles, blanched in boiling water for a minute, squeezed, and chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
½ cup sugar snap peas, blanched and chopped
4 garlic cloves, mashed with salt
5 Cerrignola olives, pitted and chopped
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 cup good olive oil (I use a Palestinian Olive Oil from the Mid East Children’s Alliance)
1 ½ cups stale white bread without crust
4 tbs Navarro Gewürztraminer aged vinegar
3 tbs Greek yogurt (I like Strauss; this came from the Ottolenghi recipe)
2 cups water
10 ice cubes
Blanch the nettles and sugar snap peas, and put in cold water to set color. Add all of the vegetables, yogurt, one cup water, and five ice cubes to a food processor, and puree until well blended.
Taste, and add salt and pepper. Because this is a cold soup, it’ll need more salt than you think, so add a little more.
Put as much as will fit in the blender—if you have a normal blender, that should be about half—with half of the remaining ice cubes, and mix until it’s really creamy. Mix the other half with the remaining ice cubes and whirl that around until it’s done. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with arils and wasabi peas (or avocado chunks and something else), and serve.
Notes on Ingredients:
Anita’s right, there are a lot of ingredients here. If you don’t have nettles, you can use spinach. Or you could use some parsley or cilantro. You can leave out the olives, though I think they add a meaty texture. If you don’t have the peas, skip them. Sherry vinegar or cider vinegar work as alternatives to the wine vinegar. You can use some green grapes instead of the apple, or you can use both. Mix it up. There’s no such place as food jail—you can do whatever you want.
Peter Moore lives, shops, and cooks in Berkeley, California. A co-founder of San Francisco’s Roxie Cinema, he worked in the film world for many years until the lure of food drew him into the world of professional cooking. Shortly thereafter, the lure of day shifts and a medical plan drew him out of restaurants, but his love of cooking remained. He is currently an intern at The Crucible in Oakland and an Operations and Development Associate for the SF Silent Film Festival.