Gazpacho. Photo by Liddie Martinez
By LIDDIE MARTINEZ
At the height of summer my childhood days were spent playing stickball with the neighborhood kids, wandering along the river banks looking for lizards or rabbits or wild flowers, roaming the acequia with my sister searching for wild asparagus and harvesting veggies with my grandma in her garden.
Tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers were brought in by the bucketsful and, for us that meant fresh Gazpacho was readily available.
My mom used to make it by the gallon and leave it chilling in the refrigerator for us to serve ourselves and our friends as we made our way back to the kitchen from our summer adventures. We’d pour it into mugs and eat it out on the swing set or in the garden with the perfume of fresh flowers enveloping us as we contemplated the next adventure or lamented the arrival of a new school year.
The flavor of Gazpacho was fresh and tangy; the texture packed a crunch and the pleasant aroma of fresh cilantro filled our senses as our tummies were gratified.
Gazpacho has origins in ancient Rome but quickly made its way to nearby Spain where the Andalusian region embraced it and took it as its own.
My version, like my mother’s, has its leanings in Portugal where they serve it made from diced ingredients rather than the puréed version widely served now in the United States.
The beauty of this dish is that it can easily be made anytime of the year with its base ingredients readily available at any well stocked grocery store, but its magic happens in August for New Mexicans when the tomatoes in our gardens are fully ripe and ready to be transformed into an amazing dish our guests will not soon forget.
I use heirlooms for depth of flavor and variation in color, or cherry tomatoes for added sweetness, but any combination will work. Gazpacho is a very delicate dish. You could put it all into a food processor but it would be a mushy mess even with the best Cuisinart. It deserves the dedication and precision of hand chopping.
It is also the perfect dish to get the kids involved in the kitchen. This dish is one that helped me perfect my dicing and mincing skills and, unless you are making it for a special dinner party with VIPs, the guests will quickly dismiss the clumsiness of a novice chop as soon as the first spoonful hits their lips.
Helping kids learn how to prepare delicious and nutritious meals at your side creates a bond that lasts for generations. You won’t regret the effort!
By the way, this is one of those fantastic dishes that is better the second day, so, invite your friends for brunch, make Gazpacho the day before and enjoy your company without the hectic flurry between kitchen and conversation.
Soup Base 3 Cups Tomato Juice (or V-8) 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lemon, juiced
¼ Cup White Wine Vinegar
1 Red Pepper, roasted and peeled (jarred is ok)
1 Shallot, minced
1 ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
In a glass bowl combine all ingredients except tomato juice, white wine vinegar and olive oil.
Mash the pepper with a whisk until it is entirely collapsed into a pulp.
Add vinegar and then drizzle oil into the bowl while whisking. Add tomato juice, stir and set aside.
1 Cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded and finely chopped
2 Celery Stalks, sliced in eighths lengthwise and finely chopped
¼ Cup Red Onion, minced
1 Cup ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 Avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
4 Sprigs Cilantro, leaves only
Toss prepared veggies together in a large bowl and pour soup base over to cover.
Chill for a couple of hours at least before serving garnished with plenty of cilantro leaves. Makes four hearty servings.