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Archive for Wednesday, July 21, 1999

BEST TOMATOES CAPTURE FEEL FOR GAZPACHO

July 21, 1999

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I was reminded last week how well gazpacho shows off the flavor of fresh-picked, vine-ripened tomatoes. Gazpacho was Friday's soup du jour at Papillon, a restaurant near Third Avenue and Josephine in Denver, and the bowl I was served was perfect in every way. The base of the soup was smooth and the sweet flavor of the tomatoes was balanced with fresh basil and, I believe, a dash of lime.

Gazpacho is easy to prepare but the tomatoes must be chosen with care. Because the soup is served cold, the flavor of the soup is true to the quality of the ingredients. Anything less than fully ripened, red and juicy tomatoes will compromise the taste and appearance of the soup. That eliminates most of the tomatoes available in the supermarket produce section, which generally are picked long before the flavor has matured. If you're serious about your gazpacho and don't grow your own tomatoes, you're best advised to head for the farmer's market.

I've seen recipes for gazpacho that call, generically, for tomato juice. To people who appreciate gazpacho, this is heresy. Processing tomatoes into juice, even in home canning, alters the flavor and only a soup that is made with fresh tomatoes deserves to be called gazpacho.

Gazpacho recipes also differ in seasoning -- some play up the use of Mexican spices, such as cilantro and peppers, while others remain more neutral and avoid distractions from the tomato base. However, even if you repeat the same recipe, no two batches of gazpacho will taste exactly the same, since the subtle differences in the acidity of the tomatoes controls the seasoning requirements and, thus, the outcome of the recipe.

The soup I ate last week contained diced vegetables and some pieces of tomato, which gave it extra heft. I've also eaten delightful gazpacho that was entirely free of texture.

The following recipe, which is a hybrid of several I've tried over the years, can be made without the vegetables. The chilies also are optional. Either way, the soup should be seasoned in stages. When a range of quantities is given for the herbs and flavorings, add the first amount before chilling. After the soup has spent some time in the refrigerator, which allows the flavors to mingle, season to taste by gradually adding the remaining ingredients.

Gazpacho

5 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes

1 medium zucchini, peeled, seeded, diced and lightly sauteed

1 large potato, cooked, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, cooked, peeled and diced

1 large onion, diced and sauteed until almost clear

1 cup sweet corn kernels

¤ cup chopped fresh basil

2 to 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 or 2 fresh chilies, seeded and finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Core the tomatoes and blanch them, a few at a time, for about 10 seconds in boiling water. Rinse the tomatoes in cold water, then slip off their skins and cut them in half. Using a mesh strainer placed over a bowl, squeeze out the juice and seeds. Reserve the juice.

Puree about two-thirds of the tomatoes in a food processor and chop the rest into small pieces. Combine the tomatoes and the puree (but not the reserved juice), all the vegetables, the chilies and the basil in a large bowl. Add 2 teaspoons salt, ng ingredients.

Gazpacho

5 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes

1 medium zucchini, peeled, seeded, diced and lightly sauteed

1 large potato, cooked, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, cooked, peeled and diced

1 large onion, diced and sauteed until almost clear

1 cup sweet corn kernels

¤ cup chopped fresh basil

2 to 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1 or 2 fresh chilies, seeded and finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Core the tomatoes and blanch them, a few at a time, for about 10 seconds in g journalism at Baker University. You can send e-mail to her at mellinger@harvey.bakeru.edu. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.

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