This recipe is one of my summer staples, taken long ago from somewhere, maybe Bon Appetit?, back when I still read print magazines. It’s a thinly modified and pureed recipe from someone’s Andalusian grandmother, who adds tarragon to the local speciality when she serves it to guests at her restaurant.
What can I say about gazpacho? It’s a sipping soup, refreshing on a hot day when you’re too weary and sticky to even face the kitchen. It keeps in the fridge for days, becoming more pungent with garlic as it sits, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s great served in little glasses as a party appetizer for your last summer barbecue, too. Gazpacho, with its green herbal notes, musky cucumber and sweet pepper, freshening up the elixir known to man as sun-ripe tomato juice, rejuvenates the very soul.
Gazpacho is the reason I grow cucumbers and peppers to go with my tomatoes, because there is simply nothing like gazpacho made fresh from the vine. If you don’t have these items in your garden, hop over to the farmer’s market, where tomatoes are a-plenty, and buy some big, acidic, ruby red slicers. Ask the farmer which ones fit the bill, especially this year. Pick up some fresh tarragon — you won’t regret it. As for the rest of the ingredients, well, you can fudge. I made due with a good red wine vinegar for years, until I was seduced by a grossly expensive bottle of sherry vinegar at the Spanish import store in Berkeley. The sherry vinegar makes it. Honestly. It’s one of the only condiments I have *just* for one dish.
I like the texture of pureed gazpacho studded with pristine cubed vegetables as a garnish, but many people like to keep it chunky and skip the garnish step. If you’re really fancy, you can food mill it, which makes the texture silky and gorgeous on the tongue. In any case, serve with croutons or some sort of bread, ye carb-deprived be damned.
We have a couple more hot days ahead of us, Eugeniuses, so get crackin’ on some cool soup!
Tomato Tarragon Gazpacho
Serves: 6 as an appetizer
2 pounds slicer tomatoes of premium quality
2 large red bell peppers
6-8 pickling cucumbers, unpeeled
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, or substitute 1 T. good red wine vinegar and 1 T. good balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 baguette, day-old, cubed
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Place bread cubes in small bowl and cover with water or the juice of a third tomato, mashed up, if you have some to spare, and a bit of salt. Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes.
For extra flavor, char the skin of the tomatoes and bell peppers. You can do this in a few ways. I generally just use metal tongs and my gas stove burner turned up on high. You can place the peppers directly on top of the burner grate, and turn them every minute or so, until they are charred on all sides. You MUST watch them carefully. The tomatoes are more delicate, but you can do the same process; I usually roast them just until they are charred in places but still raw inside. Or, even better, have your gracious partner grill them on the Weber while you are chopping veggies.
Let peppers rest and steam in a brown paper bag or covered dish while you chop the tomatoes and cucumbers. I don’t bother slipping the skin off the tomatoes, but you can if you like. Add tomatoes and juice to large bowl.
Chop cucumbers finely; add to HALF to bowl with salt and pepper, HALF to small bowl to reserve as garnish. Finely chop garlic and stir into tomato mixture with cucumbers, tarragon, vinegar, and oil.
Carefully slit the peppers and pour the juice into the bowl. Peel the charred skin off the peppers and remove the seeds, stem and ribs. You may rinse off the pepper, but it will remove some of the smoky remnants. Chop peppers finely and add HALF to bowl, HALF to another small bowl to reserve as garnish.
Drain bread, without squeezing out excess liquid. Mix into bowl with rest of ingredients.
Let mixture sit four to eight hours in the refrigerator to let flavors meld. Leave yourself a couple of hours before serving, because you will need to puree the soup and chill it again.
In a food processor purée the mixture, in batches if necessary, and return to bowl. Chill gazpacho, covered, for an hour or so.
Serve with reserved cucumber and roasted red pepper. You may also garnish with chopped bell pepper, a tiny bit of chopped jalapeno, chopped hard boiled eggs, avocado, and freshly made croutons, if you are adept at such things. Maybe not authentic, but delicious.