Sunday, August 12, 2007

Green Gazpacho with Lettuce, Cucumber, & Almonds

The first Andalusían gazpacho probably originated in the fields of southern Spain as sustenance for agricultural workers. Though in this country we tend to think of gazpacho as a chilled, tomato-based sort of liquid salad, it was originally comprised of nothing more than bread, water, olive oil, and garlic. All the ingredients were pounded and emulsified in a large wooden dornillo bowl. This was simple peasant food for the scorching summer months.

Ajo Blanco (in which ground almonds, vinegar, and salt are added to the 4 fundamental ingredients) was probably the next step – suddenly possible when the Moors brought almonds to the region in the early Middle Ages. Today this particular version is still popular, though grapes were added somewhere along the way in a typically sweet-and-sour Moorish flourish), and the recipe is associated with the south-central region of Málaga.

By the time gazpacho became well-known to the rest of Spain and the world at large, which was not until the first half of the 20th century, believe it or not, versions of the soup had become as numerous as the villages of Andalusía themselves. Tomatoes, bell peppers, beans, and green vegetables or herbs all form the bases of popular preparations.

I like blending the milky sweetness of ground almonds with the gentle flavors of lettuce and cucumber. Sherry and white wine vinegar meld with the parsley and garlic to make this soup as satisfying as it is refreshing. When it’s humid and hot - and there were tornadoes in Brooklyn on Wednesday, folks - we sip our gazpacho from glasses and pour a cool draught of fino if the mood strikes. It’s a ritual that makes a wonderful start to supper or, with some good bread and a juicy peach, a meal in itself.

Though some Andalusían cooks hold that a true gazpacho must be chopped by hand or ground in a mortar and pestle for the flavors to properly meld, others choose the convenience and speed of a food processor. Regardless, a jar of gazpacho in the fridge has become synonymous with Spanish summer itself, and it’s a custom that I, for one, am grateful to adopt come these dog days of August.

Serves 4 – 6

3 slices (about 4 oz.) bread
5 cloves garlic
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 3 or 4 lengths
2 medium cucumbers, ends trimmed and cut into chunks
1 crisp green lettuce, leaves rinsed and patted dry
1 large bunch parsley, chopped into lengths
¾ cup ground blanched almonds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup almond milk (or water)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
kosher salt

Soak the bread in cold water, squeeze out the liquid, tear into chunks, and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic and scallions until minced, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the cucumbers, lettuce, and parsley and pulse again until all are minced and incorporated. Add the ground almonds and process until the mixture is smooth. Leave the processor on while you add the bread chunks one at a time. Once the bread's incorporated, slowly stream in the olive oil.

Pour the mixture in a large bowl, stir in the almond milk and the vinegars. Season to taste with salt, and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Stir well all the way to the bottom, check the seasoning with more sherry vinegar and salt if necessary, and serve cold in glasses for sipping.


Wendy said...

Amanda, this looks incredible! Can't wait to make it. And, yet again, I read your post making umm-ing and ahh-ing noises. You're like bitesize Larousse (without the sniffiness, obviously). :)

Lucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucy said...

Tornadoes? Bloody hell...

You know Amanda, I think a jar of this in the fridge makes perfect sense in summer, something to satisfy even the most exhausted of cooks on an unthinkably hot, long day. Incredibly nutritious too.

By the way, that was my deleted comment. Just can't leave to many spelling mistakes on someone else's blog!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Wendy and thanks! I really hope you enjoy the gazpacho, and I love the idea of being a bitesize Larousse! It's something to shoot for some day anyway! You're awfully kind!

Hi Lucy! I know can you believe it? My friend I spoke about in the Pappa al Pomodoro post told me that trees on the sidewalk had been pulled out of the concrete and cars had been lifted up and turned around in their parking places! The whole city stopped (subways, buses, etc), and it took my husband 2 1/2 hours to make a normally 10 minute trip to work.
Anyway, I'm so glad you like the sound of the gazpacho. It's really surprisingly satisfying for something so light and refreshing. By the way, I'm sure I leave awful spelling mistakes on yours...

Cynthia said...

The raw garlic would not be too pungent?

Mercedes said...

Oh joy! Ajo blanco is one of my favorite things to make in the summer (I love it garnished with green grapes and with shrimp skewers and frisee salad on the side). Since I also love anything green, this is right up my alley!

Christine said...

Yum! This looks great! I'm always looking for great easy recipes in the summer. And the history lesson was interesting. Thanks!

Dianne said...

Great recipe and great blog!


Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Cynthia, Somehow it balances out. Traditionally, there might be even more in the recipe! The vinegar sort of tames the whole thing, and the ground almonds soothe too.

Hi Mercedes, I love how you serve the ajo blanco! I shall have to try that while it's still hot. Once I had to drive about 8 hours through the Almerian desert in Andalusia, and when I got to my destination, I was served a bowl of my favorite cold ajo blanco. It was the most refreshing thing I think I've ever eaten!

Hi Christine! Thanks! I like a bit of a story with my food too. And if you're looking for easy summer recipes, this soup is definitely a good one to have in your arsenal.

Hi Dianne! Thanks so much. I'm glad you like!

Joanne Rendell said...

i go away for just a few days and you put up two more amazing recipes. i can't keep up! this soup looks fab, by the way. I wonder if benny would eat it if i told him it was incredible hulk food.

marisa said...

I'd imagine that keeping a pitcher of this in the fridge is pretty good for your waistline too!

Jen said...

This looks wonderful! I may make some today... it's hot and humid here in Ann Arbor, too.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Jo! He's an adventurous little soul after all. Who wouldn't drink something that was incredible hulk soup? He's SUCH a good boy.

Hi Marisa! You are so right. It frankly is something I should keep around the rest of the year too.

Hi Jen! I hope you do! I can't tell you how much it's helped me get through these hot days and nights. You know in Spain, they sometimes garnish their gazpacho with ice cubes!

winedeb said...

It looks! And calming! But tornado's surely are not calming. Hope all is well your way! I myself am heading back to Key West at the end of this week. It is hurricane (so not want to say that too loud) season. My stay in Ohio is almost at a close and I am going to miss my Farmers Market soooo much. But am looking forward to the fresh fish in Key West. Shrimp would pair lovely with you gazpacho!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow! I have never seen gazpacho like this before, Amanda! How interesting! Sounds much better than the ones I usually see!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Winedeb, it sounds like you've got the best of both worlds there! I got married in the Bahamas during hurricane season 2005. Madness.

Hi Jenn, and thanks! I'm glad you like it. It's a little different but still absolutely a traditional recipe.

Annie said...

This looks so good! I love the history of the whole thing too.

Patricia Scarpin said...

I have never seen this type of gazpacho, Amanda - I love the vibrant color!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Annie and thanks! Hope you enjoy it!

Hi Patricia! Thank you. I find the color very soothing - it looks like it smells if you know what I mean? Cucumbers, lettuce - all very cooling.

Lucy said...

That's amazing Amanda - so odd that we think ourselves to be 'safe' in cities, untouched by things like the weather, and then she goes and pulls a stunt like that. THAT gets our attention.

Too funny that I actually left a spelling mistake in my apology for spelling badly!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Lucy, I think my typing gets worse and worse by the day. All my words come out backwards lately, and I'm sure I make an absolute mess of your comments pages, so don't worry!
And I know just what you mean about the weather. In a big urban center like NYC, I do tend to feel utterly disconnected from it in every way - that's probably why the farmer's markets became so important to me as a connection to nature. Central Park's great, but it's still not the same thing, you know? Anyway, when something like a tornado whips through, it's sort of a wonderful reminder (as long as no one gets hurt, that is) that we're still on planet earth.

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