Monday, September 9, 2013

White Gazpacho

Gazpacho sounds fancy and intimidating, but it is actually as easy as making a smoothie. While the classic tomato gazpacho or the herbaceous gazpacho verde are delicioso, the creamy white gazpacho has a charm of its own. Traditionally, it evolved as a way for peasants to use their leftover bread, mixed with fruits and vegetables from the fields. Blanched almonds (almonds without their skins) make it feel substantial, with a supple, creamy texture. But the body of this chilled soup is cucumber and green grapes, juicy and refreshing.

So this raw dish has a surprising lightness in spite of its rich texture. The flavor is both sweet and savory, with a gentle heat from the chile. I used a South American chile called aji cristal that is creamy and light in color before it ripens. Any green chile will work, and even a sweet pepper if you don't want any heat. A red chile is fine too, but it may add a pinkish hue to the soup. Great olive oil will take this whole soup up a notch. And bread: the soup doesn't even need it! Serve it chilled and soon you will find yourself chill too.

Raw White Gazpacho
Add as much hot chile as you like, or leave it out altogether. It is nicely balanced either way.
about 1 cup green grapes
about 3 lemon cucumbers, roughly chopped (or 2 green cucumbers, peeled and chopped)
1 leek, white part only, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 small hot chile, I used an aji cristal chile
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup blanched almonds, soaked (see note)
salt and pepper, to taste

Wash leek, grapes and cucumbers well. This whole soup comes together really quickly: you just take all the ingredients and put them in a blender. Run that sucker for a long time until it is super smooth. If it seems thick, add cold water as needed to get desired texture. Adjust seasonings as desired. Serve it immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator in a covered dish. Garnish with a grape and chill out!
Note: Almond skins can taste bitter and are not desired here for their texture or flavor, not to mention adding some brown to our white gazpacho. To blanch raw almonds (do not use roasted almonds), simply soak them in boiling water for about 1 minute. Then plunge them into cold water with a few ice cubes in it. Once the almonds are cold, the skins will slip off easily when the white almond is squeezed out. They can even shoot all the way across the room! Target practice has never been so delicious.

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