Wednesday, May 31, 2006

a tale of two soups

i remember the first time i ever ate gazpacho. a few years ago, i spent some time in spain and like many european capitals, everywhere you turn there are little sidewalk cafes. picture van gogh's cafe only with a very sunny afternoon background. why did i order the soup in the first place? chances are that in my nearly nonexistant spanish vocabulary, there were only two or three things on the menu that i recognized or had heard of before. so i tried the gazpacho and was deeply upset by the croutons floating around on top getting soggier by the second. i know, i know, a couple of weeks ago i said i had no food issues. i, in fact, have one: i have soggy-food issues. i used to think it was a texture thing but the more i live and learn, i think its actually a visual thing. foods that used to be solid and are now soggy just look gross to me. and so after my first gazpacho experience (and if you've never tried it or don't really know what it is, i'll explain below, just hang in there), i really haven't tried it too many times since. and then last week, i happened across this weird recipe and decided to try it. its weird because the base of the soup doesn't have tomatos in it at all. and its weird because the stuff floating in the middle could easily stand alone as a soup all by itself (hence the subject of this entry).

so since it was strange, i've done some investigative journalism (mostly on google). i thought gazpacho was, by definition, a cold tomato soup garnished with veggies and croutons/bread. apparently that's not what it is at all. back back, way back in the day, the romans who were busy building the roads and aqueducts in spain made it but without the tomatoes (because tomatos aren't indiginous to spain). so it was a bread/oil/vinegar thing. the locals started adding veggies to make it heartier and after columbus discovered the new world, thats when the tomato got added. there are apparently tons of variations and many still do not have tomatos in them. at its heart, it is only supposed to be a cold soup designed to quinch the thirst of any poor soul slaving away outside in the summertime. and after making this variation, i agree with that completely. i don't work outside but its been so humid here recently, eating the soup was very refreshing.

Creamy Gaspacho

soup base:
2 ripe avocados, halved, and pits removed
2 cups plain yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
cilantro leaves to taste
parsley leaves to taste
1/2 cup water

garnish (second soup):
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
2 pounds red-ripe tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 large red onion, cut into chunks
1/2 large green pepper, cut into chunks
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cups crumbled French of Italian bread

for the soup base, toss all those ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. set aside. and then for the garnish (second soup), in batches, toss all of those ingredient into your blender but just pulse it a few times. you want this one to be really chunky. and you may want to add a half cup of water to this one too, if it seems too thick. instead of buying all those tomatos and onions, i bought two cans of diced tomatos. they come in all sorts of flavors and one of them is 'with diced onions.' i really like the 'open can and dump' method of cooking whenever possible. both parts of the soup should be served cold so chill all of your ingredients before or after you blend them. then, in your individual serving bowls, pour in some of the green soup and in the middle of the bowl, spoon in some of your garnish soup. since this was a long weekend and i was home all day, i had this for several lunches just with a big chunk of crusty bread and some different cheeses. i think if you had this for dinner, you'd want something else to go with it, but i'll leave that up to you. i don't think either soup wants to hang out in your fridge for more than about three days. the avacados can turn dark and the bread in the garnish, well, its gonna get soggy...


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