From May 26-June 2, I spent an amazing week in Phoenix with my dear friend, Mary Elton. We wanted to make this vacation special.The last time we were together was for 10 days in Florence, Italy last October / November. Mary had plans for what she wanted us to do, places she wanted us see, to hike, to explore. These are our favorite things to do together. As we talked on my first night in Phoenix, a new plan emerged. We would cook together, soups, from scratch, that we had never made before. Our plan was gluten free (mostly), dairy free (mostly), delicious and healthy. Mary chose gazpacho; I chose borscht.
We wanted a basic recipe that we could embellish. I went to bed excited to start the recipe hunt in the morning. I woke up early, hopped on a Bing search on my iPhone 6s and started reviewing gazpacho recipes.
Mmmmm… GAZPACHO! … Just the word made me salivate. Images of icy coldness and spicy hotness, the crunch of fresh vegetables offset by a creamy tomato based broth propelled my search. Excited, I reviewed recipes on the first 6 cites that came up in my search, not counting Wikipedia. They were: Alton Brown’s recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/gazpacho-recipe.html, Ina Garten’s http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/gazpacho-recipe.html, Food & Wine’s tempting array of gazpacho modifications http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/the-best-gazpacho-recipes, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman’s http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/06/gazpacho/, All Recipes http://allrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho/, and Epicurious http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/gazpacho-51121580.
We decided we wanted to be gazpacho purists for this first effort, so the wonderful modifications on the Food & Wine site would have to wait. We were looking for a crisp, crunchy, cold vegetable soup with just the right amount of spiciness. The rest of the sites had similar recipes with more or less blending and slightly different ingredients. Mary and I found Alton Brown’s assembly video hilarious! Anyone who could make the intimidating task of soup crafting from scratch look easy worked for us. We used his recipe and techniques as a base and modify based on whatever inspired us at the moment.
Excited, we headed out to the Central Phoenix Farmer’s Market in search of fresh veggies and herbs. Unfortunately, the Wednesday market had discontinued due to the increasing heat and only the Saturday morning market remained. Undaunted we headed to Trader Joe’s and to the Phoenix equivalent of Kroger’s. As we walked the aisles, we strategized variations and enhancements we wanted to make. To Alton’s list of ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes, tomato juice, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, toasted, ground cumin, salt, black pepper, and basil for garnish, we added carrots, celery, green pepper (instead of red), parsley, cilantro, more basil, more lime juice, red pepper flakes, more garlic, and a can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes (because good tomatoes are hard to find outside farmer’s markets in Phoenix in May).
Here’s what we created and how we did it!
Chef Mary Chef Deborah
First, the tomatoes:
Blanch, peel, core, and seed 1 & 1/2 pounds of tomatoes (Heirlooms would have been delicious, but we couldn’t find any.) Blanching makes peeling tomatoes easy! Bring water in a 4 quart pan to a boil. Cut off the stem and bottom tip of each tomato (keep these pieces as well as the skins and seeds in a fine strainer. You will extract juice from these pieces to use as broth for your soup), drop them in the water, boil for about 30 seconds, remove from boiling water and immerse in a bowl filled with ice and water. Once they cool, the skins peel easily. (If they dosn’t, you haven’t boiled them quite long enough. Pop them back in quickly. For riper tomatoes, this takes less time, for less ripe ones, more time. Be patient.) Next, cut each in half, pull out the core and any remaining seeds. Add to the sieve. Squeeze juice out of peel, seeds, and cores. I just used my hands for this. Alton says “add tomato juice as necessary to make 1 cup”. We didn’t need to. While our tomatoes were woefully lacking in flesh, they yielded a bit over a cup of juice.
Put everything, including juice, together in one large bowl
Tomato juice from peel seeds and cores
1 cup peeled, seeded and diced cucumber (Next time we probably wouldn’t peel it.)
1 large carrot (peeled and diced) – (1 cup)
1 stalk celery (chopped) – (1/2 cup)
½ green pepper (chopped) – (1/2 cup)
½ red onion (chopped) – (1/2 cup)
1 large, bright green jalapeno pepper – (seeded and finely diced)
2 handfuls chopped parsley
1 handful chopped cilantro
½ handful chopped basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
4 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Olive oil
Juice from 3 limes
½ tsp ground cumin (We didn’t use smoked cumin as Alton recommended.)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar (Invest in an 8-10 year old one. It will be the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. Trust us on this one!)
1 tsp sea salt (Pink Himalayan is my favorite!)
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper (or mixed pepper)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup “Hot V-8 juice” (In addition to the 1 cup tomato juice)
Once everything is mixed together, take 1 & ½ cups of the veggie mixture and puree in a blender. Stir back into everything else.
Because our pureed broth was such a lovely brownish – orangey color and because it had less tomato flavor than we desired, after we mixed all the ingredients together, we added 1 large can of whole, peeled plum tomatoes which we drained. We lightly blended them in the blender to add texture (We probably wouldn’t have had to drain these. And, if we had found meatier tomatoes, this might not have been necessary.)
Chill in the frig for 2 hours. Be patient. You want it cold!
Garnish with chopped cilantro, parsley, basil, and radishes (or anything else that sounds good to you!) Trust us on the radishes. They add a nice additional take on spice and another delightful crunch. We completed our lunch with a sprouted Ezekiel trdat (gluten free) and a glass of Apothic Red wine.
This soup was exactly what we hoped it would be, the perfect mixture of icy, spicy, smooth and crunchy. Next up, borscht from scratch including homemade veggie stock!
Hey, if you try this, let us know what you think in the comments section. If you have amazing modifications, post those as well!