Summer doldrums and a perfect bowl of gazpacho

August 4, 2011

The summer doldrums have begun outside yet my palate is firmly in the present tense.  The unrelenting heat makes me crave foods and wines that speak clearly of the flavor of tomatoes, peppers, spices- onions and garlic- a touch of olive oil, some sherry wine vinegar and? Voila my version of gazpacho. 

There was a time when I carried around a cup of this spicy goodness everywhere.  Sure I had garlic breath, but what a way to have it. 

I was thinking about the perfect wine for this bowl of gazpacho sitting on the dining room table.  Pairing white wine with gazpacho can be difficult, especially with the layer of spicy jalapeno peppers that are threaded throughout the deep crimson bowl of loveliness. 

I took to the wine cellar and searched for something that would have the stuffing to stand up to the fire roasted tomatoes and charred red and yellow peppers that are in my adaptation of my family recipe for gazpacho.

This recipe came from the Jerez region of Spain via New Jersey.  My parents took me there as a young boy, only five years of age at the time.  It was a brutal summer, much like the summer we are having now.  We visited the Sandeman Bodega.  There, shielded by the sun by large warehouses and huge barrels of aging sherry, I slipped away from my parents.

There were what looked like water taps on the sides of the ancient black barrels.  Opening one, just a bit, the sweet sherry began to drip out.  There was a cup nearby but I was thirsty- here was a sweet liquid and it was now pouring out into my outstretched hands.  I drank and drank and drank.  Soon, my drinking got the attention of a few of the Bodega workers.  They laughed, closed the tap and sought out my parents who hadn't noticed that I slipped away. 

Later at dinner, as I rocked back and forth in my chair, quite drunk- I fell backwards into a small stream that ran behind our table.  Laughter erupted, it was my first memory of wine and it was pretty darned good stuff to get blasted on! 

 

Gazpacho from Jerez as I remember it, via New Jersey.  Food Historians may disagree with the specific provenance of this dish, but it's delicious anyway.

1 pint of fresh tomatoes fire roasted until charred, pulped in a stainless steel or better yet a ceramic bowl with your fingers.. Yes, with your fingers.  Try to get as much of the char off and not in the soup. 

This soup just tastes better if you crush the tomatoes by hand.  If you work in a restaurant, you may not want to use your hands if anyone is watching you.

2 yellow peppers, 2 red peppers 1 green pepper fire roasted over natural wood charcoal (yes, it make a difference in the flavor of this soup)  Peeled of the char, then de-seeded.

1/2 of a fire grilled jalapeno pepper without the seeds (they make the soup bitter)

1 red onion peeled

1 cucumber peeled and seeded

garlic (boil a clove or two of garlic for a few minutes.  This takes the bitterness out of it.

Please use the best olive oil you can buy in this soup.

Throw out that stuff that has been sitting in the sun in your kitchen window.  It's bad.  Don't use it.  Try something from Pasolivo, it's my favorite olive oil right now.

Put all the ingredients plus salt and pepper to taste in a food processor.  Process until smooth, then add 1/4 cup of good Sherry Wine vinegar and puree some more. 

Finish with the best olive oil you can buy.  Puree a bit more.  You can add some stale bread- no one will be mad.

This is the first thing the diner tastes, so if it's an inferior pomace oil or cheap quality olive oil, your dish will be ruined!

Thin the base out with a little fresh tomato juice, I prefer the Muir Glen product and you can use their peeled tomatoes in a pinch if you can't find fresh tomatoes where you live.  

Adjust seasoning and serve to an appreciative crowd or keep it all for yourself and enjoy in a "go" cup.  What is a go cup?  Visit New Orleans and then you'll know what a go-cup is.

So- now there's the wine. What wine goes fabulously with gazpacho?  For my palate tonight, and that can always change with the weather, I choose the Bonny Doon Bien Nacido Syrah.  Randall Grahm makes this sophisticated wine to go with many different types of food.

Plus, it's certified Biodynamic, which is my topic of research for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America Ed., 2!

 

It's chock full of those specific leathery flavors that say Old World Rhone wines, but firmly grounded in the New World style that just speaks of California. You wine heads out there will cheer the terroir in each bottle.  It tastes of the place and is chock full of stuff.

Yes, I like wines with stuff in them.  You can take your filtered and egg white clarified, soul-less wines and... Well enjoy them!

This handmade, highly individualistic Syrah has a smoky, bacon fat nose and a finish of crushed stones woven with rich, dark red stone fruits.

It's pretty sophisticated stuff.  I like it and if you can get a bottle try some!

For my palate I like to put this bottle in a bucket of water and ice for about fifteen minutes to bring it down to cellar temperature, or a bit lower.  50-55 degrees is a good start.  If it's really hot out - chill it down more.  Nothing wrong with that.

Open the bottle, pour a bit on the floor to summon the spirits of food and drink, then pour yourself a glass.  Ron Cooper of Del Maguey Mezcal taught me that one...

Share this wine liberally with friends.  They'll always remember your hospitality even if you don't share the gazpacho with them.

 

You're going to want to carry this soup around in a go-cup, it's that good!   Cheers!  wb

 

 

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Comments

Dolores's picture

True gazpacho has NO heat in it. It is simply green pepper, cucumber, Spanish onion, garlic, the freshest ripe tomatoes, olive oil, white vinegar, Italian type bread loaf soaked in water, salt and pepper. that is it :) from a true spaniard from Andalucia.

Warren Bobrow's picture

Dolores: I agree with you. REAL Spanish Gazpacho has no heat to it. But we are not Spanish. We're from New Jersey. And sometimes hot things are used in the soups from this part of the world. I didn't call this soup the only way to make it, just perfect.. perfect for my palate.
That's why I said that the provenance may not be perfect, but I happen to like it with a bit of heat.
Thanks for your comment. Most people don't leave them. I appreciate your thoughts! wb


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