June 13, 2010

Refreshing strawberry "gazpacho"

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I'm never really sure how to name this dish: strawberry "gazpacho" or "salmorejo". Both, as chef Dani García once really well defined it, are "aromatised" cold tomato soups. The "gazpacho andaluz" is a very thin (liquidy) tomato soup flavoured with other vegetables: cucumber, pepper and onion (sometimes garlic) finished with white wine vinegar and olive oil...and though it is not traditional to use in the South of Spain, to me it always tastes best with a sprinkle of powdered cumin!(maybe because that's how my mom used to make it!). On the other hand, the "salmorejo cordobés" is a much thicker tomato soup made with stale bread and just flavoured with garlic and vinegar (some people use a sherry one, but I prefer the neutral acidity of the white wine vinegar) and emulsified with a mildly flavoured olive oil into a incredibly creamy consistency.

I really like the refreshing ice cold gazpacho for a hot summer day, but if I were to choose, I prefer the creamy velvety texture and milder flavour of the salmorejo...served with chopped "jamón ibérico" though! :) This is the reason why I wasn't sure how to name this recipe: gazpacho or salmorejo, as it is made with other vegetables and no garlic as the gazpacho, but I like to make it a bit thicker, though not as much as a true salmorejo, so if I named it gazpacho, it may deceive some people! That's why I've included a range of bread weights in order to make it thinner (thus, more refreshing, and easier to drink off a glass) or creamier (to me, more comforting! but can only be eaten with a spoon...this is significant if you serve it as cocktail dish). Also, I often like to drizzle it with a Modena vinegar reduction, but this only stands neatly over the thicker version.

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The idea of making gazpacho with strawberry has been around for a few years now. We were making it in one of the restaurants I worked at, at least 5 years ago, and I doubt it was a novel idea. Then, two years later at another fantastic restaurant we were making a beetroot version and a incredibly delicious cherry one!(The difficult part was choosing the right cherries to give a beautiful colour...most would oxidise quickly into a less appealing brownish hue!)

About the idea, if you think about it, using strawberry instead of tomato in this soup makes perfect sense as, colour aside, and not only because it is also a fruit, it provides with acidity as the tomato does. So, the balance of the taste in the soup is very similar. I think that opposed to what we may initially think, that the strawberry version will be sweeter, it actually has more acidity, so needs much less vinegar to balance the dish. For this reason I have, for some time now, chosen to use modena vinegar as it is sweeter that the white wine one, and furthermore the flavour matches perfectly with the strawberries...I've seen various italian recipes of strawberries, as a dessert, served with modena reduction and parmesan. If you try it, you'll see how it's a perfect marriage! So no more chatting, I leave you with the recipe, I hope that you try it and enjoy it in a warm spring day when flavourful strawberries are available and at their best!!!

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Strawberry "gazpacho"

(enough for 8 first dishes)

500g ripe strawberries*

500g ripe tomatoes stale bread** (60-100g)

1/2 a cucumber (half-peeled as it aids in digestion)~70g

1/4 red pepper ~40g

1/4 green pepper***

1/4 small onion (white or red) ~30g

~40g modena vinegar or reduction (to taste)

~100g mild flavour olive oil

salt & freshly milled pepper

(optional: pinch of ground cumin)

*I often use a bit higher proportion of strawberry to tomato (2:1 or even 3:1). But I recommmend you first try this ratio (1:1) to decide whether you like    the "strawberry" taste. Though, honestly I still haven't found one person not to like it!

** Ideally for salmorejo, which uses a high proportion of bread (usually 200g, or more, for 1kg of tomato) the best bread to use is "candeal", a type of bread with a dense crumb, and it is left to dry over a day, so that it absorbs more of the tomato juices. But to be honest, in this case, you can use fresh or old bread, I just think that this is an excellent way to use up left over bread!!!Just consider that if it's fresh you may need a bit more to obtain the same consistency.

*** You can use only red pepper in this "gazpacho", which has a sweeter flavour and goes better to intensify the colour. But I personally like to use a bit of green, as I like the fresh taste it adds.

This preparation is super easy! Just a warning note before you prepare it, I’ve found that this strawberry gazpacho ferments much faster than a tomato gazpacho would. It must be something in the strawberries (?) but while a tomato gazpacho will last in good condition in the fridge for over a week, this one probably won’t last more than 4 days. I just want to tell you in case you are planning to make it and go away, don’t be surprised if it’s spoiled! So, try to make it for the days to follow to enjoy it then!

First, slice or break up into smallish pieces your stale bread and place them in the bottom of a bowl that will fit the rest of ingredients. This way it will soak up the juices from everything you’ll place on top!

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Then, wash and cut into pieces the rest of vegetables (& fruit: tomatoes and strawberries). About the cucumbers, I was taught that if you half-peel them, they are more easily digested…It may be one of those things that are passed on from generation to generation with no scientific foundation! I should write to Hervé This or Harold McGee to find an explanation to this or to hear that it is nonsense…but it may be own suggestion, but I think it works!:) So, up to you!

Many people soak up the bread with water…To me, to get the fullest flavour with texture it makes no sense, as all you do is dilute the soup as you’ll need more bread for the same consistency! It was great for bad times, to fill up bellies, but I wouldn’t suggest it, not even to go quicker! If you want to soak the bread faster, blend the tomatoes first and pour them over the bread so in no time it will soak up the juice!

Once you have all the veg on top, what I like to do is to season the whole as if it were a salad I were about to eat. That is, add some salt and freshly milled pepper, the pinch of cumin (if you like cumin), a little bit of balsamic vinegar or it’s reduction, it will obviously be sweeter, but since the strawberries are fairly sour, even if ripe, I prefer it. Finally, a drizzle of olive oil… Mix the whole with your clean hands, trying to keep the bread underneath and taste. Though, you will adjust the seasonings after blending, it’s best to already get a taste you like in terms of saltiness, sourness and other flavours, like the amount of onion, for instance.

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It’s not even well-cut, but to me, all those colours, that smell…is already appealing! Actually, cut in nice pieces, with cherry tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes and with ripped pieces of chargrilled sourdough bread, it makes a wholesome tasty salad…a “deconstruction” of strawberry “gazpacho” (in the line of Ferrán Adrià!;) )…Actually, it’s a pre-construction!!! Just missing some bufala mozzarella or crumbled goat’s cheese to me!

I forgot to mention, that the best tomatoes to use, apart from ripe ones and ideally flavourful varieties, are those with less vegetative water and seeds and more pulp, as they make for a tastier gazpacho and require less bread (another thing to take into account).

I like to leave the preparation from one day to the next before blending, or at least a few hours, but it can be done in less time, like I said if you blend the tomato and place it over the bread so it hydrates.

Then, just blend all together in batches and when completely blended incorporate the rest of the olive oil slowly so it emulsifies with the soup instead of separating. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and vinegar if needed. It should be creamy and shiny (the thicker version) or simply smooth and shiny (the thinner one).

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Finally, a must it to pass it through a fine chinois or sieve, so there are no bits and it has a smooth feel in the mouth.

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This is how the thick version should look like once strained through the fine mesh:

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I think it makes a great cocktail appetiser, with a bit of finely chopped chives…

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and it just occurred to me, some grated goat cheese. Since it is often served in restaurants with goat cheese ice-cream as it combines really well, with the microplane, we can obtain very fine shavings that provide a discrete flavour.

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They will hold on their place even in the thinner version

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Here are the finished glasses

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Hope you enjoy it!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

RICO,rico...cuando me lo hiciste la primera vez, hace unos años ya pensé lo mismo. es una pena que en Brasil no tengan ningún exito las sopas frias, hubo que quitarlas de la carta del 3 marias... pero en casa, es otra cosa, y eso que las fresas de aquí son bastante sin gracia (los tomates también, by the way)...pero creo que puestos a elegir, el salmorejo "espesito" me gusta más... espero que ya hayan cerezas en el mercado, ya llevo unos años sin pillarlas ;)

Colette said...

Creo que he conseguido solucionarlo! no conseguía hacer comentarios...porque había deshabilitado los "cookies" a ver si esta vez funciona!

En cuanto a las cerezas, non ti preocupare, que ya las hay ricas en el mercado. Así que en nada podrás disfrutarlas...aunque por POCO tiempo!Lo del tema de las sopas frías en el 3 Marías, no lo sabía, que pena...ellos se lo pierden!!Con lo bien que sientan en un día caluroso!

Anonymous said...

Cuando haga un poco más de calor tengo que probar este gazpacho que me parece de lo más delicioso. El año pasado me quedó genial el de cerezas. Gracias.

Colette said...

Imagino quien eres, pero no recuerdaba que hubieses probado el de cerezas. La verdad es que es delicioso, tiene más personalidad. Pero, aparte de que las cerezas te puedan salir "rana" y no quede ese color morado tan bonito, hay que reconocer que lo más rollo es quitarles las pepitas una a una!!me hice con un sacabocados chiquitín, justo de ese tamaño, para que la tarea fuese más sencilla y...funciona!

carmen said...

I did this today and it was delicious¡¡I added a little raspwberry vinegar, and the result was a little more fruity and sweet but glorious anyway, even with not very good strawberies. My daugther had two full servings and then wanted nothing else¡

Colette said...

Great to know it worked out well for you! The truth is that when I first learned this dish, we used to make it precisely as you have, with raspberry vinegar. I later on tried it with the balsamic, and though it does nothing for colour, it works well as a flavouring. But, really, any vinegar is fine, just adjusting accordingly to the sweet-sour balance desired. So glad your little one liked it!

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