Jun 29, 2012

What a {Fri}day for a Daydream: Beautiful Spain

There are many things I love about summertime in Nashville: crickets singing at night, swimming pools, fireflies, live music, local strawberries and tomatoes, and cookouts, to name a few. Admittedly, my current seasonal love has nothing to do with Nashville, but it seems to fit right in with Music City's sweltering summer days. Gazpacho is my latest obsession. Hey, I said this was a week of cooking! Chilled and refreshing, it's the perfect dinner or appetizer on a very, very, hot day. Very hot as in 103 degrees yesterday, and 108 today.

So back to the gazpacho. My dear Spanish friend Almu (those who used to read Jenn & Ben Go North may remember her from posts like this one), was the first person to serve me a really great tomato-based gazpacho. She eventually shared her recipe, but I think she must have left some secret out, because mine never turned out as delicious as hers. Then in the summer of 2010 (I was just past my first trimester with Max), we visited Almu in Spain, and her sister treated us to an amazing Spanish lunch that included white gazpacho. And oh man, ever since tasting that light, tangy chilled deliciousness, I determined to learn how to make it. And two years later I finally did :)

I decided to whip up a half-sized batch yesterday, since that was all I had enough ingredients for. This was my third go at it, and I'm pretty much in love. It's probably not for everybody because of its tart kick, but I crave this like a pregnant woman craves peanut butter (ie, a LOT)! And maybe the best part is that it always takes me back to Spain.

We spent nearly two weeks exploring Spain, and it has stuck with me. The hospitality, especially in the northern regions, was amazing. And the food. God help me, the food - I mean everything we ate, everywhere we went - was to die for. The seafood was so fresh (I tried calamari and liked it), the cheese rich and flavorful, the cured meats divine (shh, don't tell anybody I sampled those while I was pregnant), and everything was accompanied by big fluffy hunks of bread and local olive oil. The sites were grand and humble at the same time. Castles and estates and orchards, surrounded by bucolic fields and low-key locals who know how to kick back and enjoy life. High fashion (Spain is the home of Zara, after all) and easy living.

a beach in La Coruna, a gorgeous little city in the northern province of Galicia

with Almu in Madrid

Ben with a Galician delicacy: a gooseneck barnacle - one of the world's most dangerous seafoods to catch because of their location on jagged cliff walls amid crashing waves.

Ben and I were tempted to look at real estate on the northern coast of Spain. But we didn't, so now, after a long and round-about story, I'll get to my point: today, I am snacking on leftover white gazpacho and daydreaming about Spain.

Here's the original recipe I found with the help of google: White Gazpacho Recipe. And here's my slightly altered version:

Heavenly White Gazpacho


2 cups stale white bread (or toasted fresh bread - I've tried a high quality Italian bread as well as old frozen hamburger buns, and both seem to work just fine!)
2 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 cup almond flour (or slivered blanched almonds - but I prefer the smoother consistency of almond flour and can tell no difference in the flavor.)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 garlic cloves (ore more if you're a garlic lover)
2 cups green seedless grapes
2 cucumbers, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons sherry or cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
chives (for garnish)

Start by bringing your broth to a boil, then tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and add it to the broth. Turn off heat and let this mixture sit while you prepare everything else.

Next, in a food processor, grind up the almond flour (or slivers), salt and garlic. Add your broth and bread concoction and roughly blend. Then, in go the grapes and cucumbers. I like to go heavy on the cucumbers, so I either use two pretty large ones, or two and a half if they're smaller.

Once your cucumbers and grapes are well blended, pulse in 2 tablespoons of vinegar (I've always used sherry, but I'm sure cider would be good too). This is where it gets fun - time to taste-test! If it tastes plenty tart to you, then forget about the extra vinegar. If you aren't puckering up quite enough, then go ahead and add that third tablespoon of vinegar. I usually do!

With the food processor running on a slow setting, add the olive oil. Almu was always liberal with olive oil in her gazpacho (and her cooking in general), so I don't hesitate to add more if the consistency isn't as smooth and creamy as I want. I figure this just makes it more authentically Spanish! This last go round, I also added about 1/4 cup of water because I prefer a less thick gazpacho.

Now, chill for an hour or so (the longer the better), sprinkle with chives, and enjoy! This is awesome for an easy make-ahead appetizer. Last night we had it with a big salad and were totally satisfied. I like to serve it in a pretty cup because that's how Almu always did it, and it make me happy. I used martini glasses when I served this at a dinner party, but we didn't get that fancy last night.

So there you have it - you may be daydreaming of different exotic vacation, but I guarantee this gazpacho will cool you down from the summer heat! Hope everybody has a wonderful weekend and manages to stay cool! If you're in a place that's not 108 degrees ... well, good choice, my friend :)

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