by Matt on March 1, 2010

Gazpacho, how much do I love you? This cold, raw tomato soup hails from Andalusia, Spain and if I don’t get my butt to España soon I will be forever cranky. I wanted to do something Spanish to coincide with the new Cookbook Review column here on Mattbites from the lovely Kristina Gill. This week it’s all about Spain. I could easily dedicate an entire blog about the country of Spain, it’s one of my favorite places on the planet that I would gladly pack up and move to tomorrow if I had my druthers. The only problem is that a) I am an American so there’s that pesky paperwork problem and b) I’d fall asleep at the dinner table each and every night. Oh who am I kidding? I would have been in bed for 2 hours by the time everyone assembles for dinner. Old man, me.

These two recipes for gazpacho come from Chef José Andrés. Whenever I think of him I get warm and tingly and I am thankful that he has chosen to live here in the US. I believe it makes this a better place, for sure. Saving the conversation about Spain being a gastronomic mecca for a later date, Chef José’s recipes have always worked for me and these two recipes are not only extremely flavorful (and one packs a punch!) but easy to prepare. You may not want to think of cold tomato soups in February I realize but I am in Los Angeles and we’ve had glorious sunny weather lately.  Plus I wanted to pretend I was in Spain. I even listened to a little Segovia.

Remind me to tell you about the time I ran into him at Disneyland while I was hosting my friends visiting from Palma de Mallorca. You’ve never heard two Spanish men squeal like children, it was Mallorquín on fire.  My friends I mean, not Chef Andrés.

These two recipes may be similar in their no-cook Spanish spirit but they are quite different. The first gazpacho was made with green tomatoes which gave it a pleasant tangy green flavor. It was the second–a white gazpacho made with almonds and bread– that made me so happy. Garlicky, savory and intense, it’s almost easy to forget that this robust soup hasn’t been cooked at all. And those green grapes? Pure heavenly contrast. It’s amazing how delicious they are in this soup. I really couldn’t get enough.

Gazpacho from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés, Clarkson Potter

For the gazpacho:
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes) or you can use heirloom tomatoes or even green tomatoes!
8 ounces cucumber (about 1 cucumber)
3 ounces green pepper (about 1/2 bell pepper)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For the garnish:
1 tablespoon Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice rustic white bread
8 plum tomatoes, with the seeds prepared as “fillets”
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 pearl onions, pulled apart into segments
2 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Sea salt to taste
4 chives, cut into 1-inch long pieces

1. Cut out and discard the core at the top of the tomatoes, and chop the tomatoes roughly into quarters. Place in the blender.
2. Peel the cucumber and cut into chunks. Add to the tomatoes in the blender. Cut the pepper in half, and remove the core along with the seeds. Again, chop into large pieces and place in the blender.
3. Add the garlic and sherry vinegar to the vegetables and blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid. At this point the red tomatoes will turn a wonderful pink color. Taste for acidity. This will vary with the sweetness of the tomatoes. If it’s not balanced enough, add a little more vinegar. Add the olive oil and season with salt to taste. Re-blend, then pour the gazpacho through a strainer into a pitcher. Place in the fridge to cool for at least half an hour.
4. While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the garnish. In a small pan, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame and fry the bread until golden, about 2 minutes. Break into small pieces to form croutons and set aside.
5. To serve, place in each bowl 4 croutons, 2 “fillets” of tomato seeds, 4 cherry tomato halves, 3 cucumber cubes, and 3 onion segments. Add a few drops of olive oil to each onion segment and drizzle a little more oil around the bowl. Add a few drops of vinegar to each cucumber cube and drizzle a little more around the bowl. Sprinkle sea salt on the tomatoes, and sprinkle the chives across the bowl. Serve chilled.

White Gazpacho from Jaleo Restaurant
7 ounces blanched almonds
1 ounce garlic cloves
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 ounces bread
1 1/2 ounces freshly pressed white grape juice
1 1/2 ounces sherry vinegar
1 cup  Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper, to taste
18 grapes, peeled and halved

Combine almonds, garlic and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil; cool slightly. Place mixture in food processor with remaining ingredients except grapes. Purée until frothy, season to taste and and refrigerate. Serve cold and garnish with plenty of grapes.