Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gazpacho, Day 92, 8/28/11

Yes, I know it's been a while since I posted anything.  School is back in full swing and anyone that works in a school can tell you exactly how exhausting the first few weeks back are...  I come home and all I want to do is sit on the couch with the pups.  If I'm lucky I don't fall asleep at like 5:30, instead I watch a couple of programs on the dvr, eat something, do a few things around the house and before I know it, it's bed time.

The question everyone has been asking me lately is whether or not I'm going to continue being a vegetarian.  And the answer is, yes.  It's not always easy, but I still enjoy it and I am going to stick with it.  Forever?  I don't know.  But it definitely is going to last longer than just the summer.  Sorry, Nathan.  I don't think my brother is looking forward to Thanksgiving with me as a vegetarian.

Eating school lunch as been a challenge so far.  I ordered a chicken-less Chicken Wrap one day and I think the cafeteria ladies thought I was crazy.  So I received a large tortilla with shredded cheese in it.  I added some rice, veggies and ranch dressing and it was actually pretty good.  I've asked Miss Janet to read the the contents on several boxes in the kitchen and report back.  So far, if something could have meat products in it, like country gravy mix or refried beans, at my school, it does.  :-(  And I've eaten more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch in the last week and a half than I have in the previous 3 years combined.  Literally.  But I've also had cafeteria Cheese Pizza and Bosco Sticks for the first time and they weren't nearly as bad as I had imagined.

Now with school back in session, I won't post nearly as much as I did over the summer.  But every now and again, especially over breaks, if I make something particularly unusual or delicious, I'll blog about it.

Anyway, back to why I'm writing today:  Gazpacho.  This is a recipe that I have to share before the weather cools down too much.  It is so refreshing and delicious to eat when it's hot outside because it's a Spanish raw veggie soup that is served cold.  My family likes to make a few big batches of it each summer.  And since summer is also when you can find the veggies at their best, it's perfect!  My mom and I made some last weekend and she let me bring the leftovers home!  What a great lady!  Plus, she was such a good sport, stopping to let me take pictures, as we made it.

So these are the main ingredients:  tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and onions.  Notice these are also common garden veggies in this area, so if you've got a neighbor or co-worker that is giving away the extras from their garden, this is a delicious way to use them! 

We used 8 good sized tomatoes, 2 medium cucumbers, 2 green peppers and 1 large onion.

You're going to puree all of these veggies in a food processor or blender.  So you start by getting everything ready for that.

You'll want to peel the cucumbers and then use a spoon to scrape the seeds out of them. 

Of course, you'll need to remove the seeds from the peppers and get rid of the papery layer on the outside of the onion, too.

Then chop all 3 into large chunks so they'll blend a little easier.

You'll want to process each veggie on it's own for the best results.  Since they each have their own texture and density, if you try to mix them they won't puree as uniformly.  As you can see, we don't mind if the veggies are a little chunky, you can blend more or strain your results if you want it really smooth.

The tomatoes are a little bit more labor intensive to prep, but they aren't difficult.  They need to be cored and peeled before you blend them up.  And for those of you, like me, that would be tempted to skip peeling the tomatoes, we've tried that before and we weren't happy with the results.  The tomato skin doesn't blend up all that well and it's a pretty unpleasant texture in the soup.  I promise this trick my mom taught me makes peeling your tomatoes a breeze. 

Bring a large pot of water up to a boil.  Once it boils, you can turn it down, it doesn't need to continue to boil, it just needs to stay nice and hot.  Drop in a few of the tomatoes and let them sit in the hot water for a minute or 2.  Then pull them out and run them under cold water.  The cold water will stop them from cooking, and it will cool off the tomatoes so that you can handle them.

The hot water makes the tomato release it's skin a bit.  Use a paring knife to cut out the core and easily peel the tomato skin off in large pieces.

Here are all 8 of the tomatoes cored and peeled and it didn't take much time at all.  Cut your tomatoes into wedges and run them through the food processor as well.

My mom's recipe says to add a can of tomato juice.  And if we happen to have one, we will, but we've also used a little tomato sauce and some extra water or a can of diced tomatoes.  On this day, we used a can of diced tomatoes, but I think my preference is a can of V-8.

The liquids to be added are 2/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2/3 cup water and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar. 

The last couple of things you need to add are a heaping Tablespoon of kosher or sea salt and 3 or 4 finely diced garlic cloves.  Then stir everything together and give it a taste.  If it needs a little more salt, add a little more.  Finally, put this in the refrigerator for at least an hour or two before you serve it.  It's so much better when it's nice and cold.  And, of course, that makes it so refreshing on a hot summer day.

Very traditional Gazpacho has some day old bread blended up with the vegetables and is topped with croutons and finely diced chunks of the veggies that are in the soup.  Some variations on Gazpacho have diced egg or ham on top.  But in my family, we skip the bread and just use lots of croutons.  We put coutons in the bowl first, add the soup on top and then add a few more croutons for good measure.  This is summer in a bowl to me.

These vegetables are at their peak of flavor in the summer months and the addition of the acidic vinegar with the rich olive oil make this dish perfection.  The longer this concoction sits in the fridge, the more the flavors develop.  It only gets more delicious with time.  Enjoy!

Thanks to everyone who bothered to read My Vegetarian Adventures and encouraged me in my endeavor this summer.  You went on the experience with me!

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