When preparing this soup, use the freshest, most perfectly ripe locally grown produce you can find.
Chef Richard Hamilton offers two interpretations of this well-known vegetable soup: One is a consomme of pure juices extracted from chopped vegetables by salting them and letting them drip through cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator. The other is a velvety-smooth puree that has been passed through a fine-mesh strainer. The consomme version yields less soup; it is thinner but more refined than the thicker, more substantial pureed version. (Hamilton prefers the consomme.)
What makes both renditions shine is the garnish of colorful vegetables cut into a very fine dice known as a micro-brunoise. In its pureed state, the gazpacho could easily stand in as a healthful summer sauce for poultry or fish.
In either case, this goes faster if two people are doing the prep work. The vegetables for the consomme need at least 1 day to drain.
Yield: Makes 4 cups
- For the gazpacho
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped cucumber, preferably European cucumber
- 1 1/2 cups seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes, preferably very ripe
- 3/4 cup seeded and coarsely chopped green bell pepper
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped sweet vidalia or maui onion
- 1 stemmed and seeded jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Several sprigs of thyme (for the consomme version only)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste (for the pureed version only)
- For the micro-brunoise
- 1 cup peeled, seeded and very finely diced cucumber (cut into 1/4-inch dice or smaller)
- 1 cup seeded and very finely diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup seeded and very finely diced tomato
- 1 cup very finely diced red onion
- 1 cup finely chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 8 sprigs chervil leaves (optional)
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Line a large colander with cheesecloth and place inside a larger bowl.
For the consomme version of the gazpacho: Combine the cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, jalapeno pepper, if using, garlic and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add liberal amounts of salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste along with the thyme sprigs. Mix well to combine. Transfer the seasoned vegetable mixture to the lined colander; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the vegetables for 24 to 36 hours to allow the liquid to drain from them. After that time, gently squeeze the vegetables through the cheesecloth to extract any remaining liquid. Reserve the vegetables for another use, such as a salsa for chicken or fish. (The amount of juice the vegetables exude depends on how ripe they are. This should yield about 1/3 cup of liquid per serving.)
For the pureed version of the gazpacho: Combine the vegetables and olive oil (not the thyme) in a blender. And add salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste along with the tomato paste. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes or until very smooth.
For the micro-brunoise: In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, green bell pepper, tomato, red onion, chives and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To serve: Refrigerate 8 small soup bowls or coffee cups until well chilled.
Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer (use a wooden spoon or spatula) into a large bowl and discard any solids. Add the vinegar and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the micro-brunoise mixture among the 8 chilled cups or bowls, then pour in the soup. Garnish with chervil leaves, if desired, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
Adapted from Restaurant Local chef Richard Hamilton.
Tested by Jill Grisco.
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