A be­gin­ner’s guide to mak­ing gaz­pa­cho

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Larry Pozner Larry Pozner is a crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney in Den­ver.

Last week­end, I la­bo­ri­ously made some won­der­ful gaz­pa­cho, from scratch.

Mind you, I did not cook it. If you thought I would claim to have cooked gaz­pa­cho, well, you must har­bor a very low opin­ion of my kitchen skills. And if that is true, then you will be per­fectly com­fort­able with this story.

Most any­one will tell you that toma­toes, more than any­thing else, de­fine a truly great gaz­pa­cho. And un­til I learn how to pick toma­toes, this is my recipe.

I use three dif­fer­ent types of toma­toes. First, I buy about 4 pounds of big, red toma­toes, se­lected on the the­ory that I will use a lot of toma­toes. (I do not like to over­think this tomatopick­ing process.) Then, I add about 2 pounds of funny-shaped, smaller toma­toes.

My think­ing here is they look dif­fer­ent, so they prob­a­bly taste dif­fer­ent. Or as we in the cook­ing trades say, they have an in­ter­est­ing “taste pro­file.”

This is a phrase I learned from my daugh­ter Quin one Christ­mas, when she sent me to buy baby bok choy and I brought back fully grown bok choy. She looked at me in a way that sug­gested that we might as well throw out every­thing she had pre­pared and maybe scrape down the kitchen to bare walls and start over.

But they she soft­ened her po­si­tion and said these im­mor­tal words: “That’s prob­a­bly OK. Af­ter all, it will have the same taste pro­file.”

I think she meant like baba ganoush has the same taste pro­file as Hun­gar­ian goulash. But I ap­pre­ci­ated her sen­si­tiv­ity.

In any event, we were not done with toma­toes. I then added spe­cial toma­toes pre­served in tin. I’m not sure why, but it may have some­thing to do with mer­cury. Not enough is spo­ken on this is­sue, which is weird be­cause lots of peo­ple talk about their mer­cury in­take. Mer­cury must be good for us or why would they put it in ther­mome­ters?

Tin in the diet must be kept in bal­ance. Some­one even made a doc­u­men­tary on tin de­fi­ciency, and the guy ended up need­ing a heart. I saw it. You did, too.

The recipe said to seed and dice the big red toma­toes, so I did that. Then I reread the in­struc­tions.

(An aside: In cook­ing cir­cles, peo­ple do not talk about “in­struc­tions.” In­stead, they call the process a “recipe” and “di­rec­tions.” But if you think about it, cook­ing is all about buy­ing ran­dom pieces of wood and some glue, and some pegs and like three dif­fer­ent kinds of screws, and the in­struc­tions tell you that you can as­sem­ble them into this beau­ti­ful book­case or shoe rack, (de­pend­ing on how care­fully you as­sem­ble the pieces, then they give you a sheet of pa­per writ­ten by some­body in Myan­mar and trans­lated by a high schooler in a Rus­sian satel­lite coun­try try­ing to prac­tice her English. So cook­ing is re­ally the ul­ti­mate “some as­sem­bly re­quired” plus “bat­ter­ies not in­cluded,” and the bat­ter­ies you need are not in your re­frig­er­a­tor, and usu­ally can only be found at a spe­cialty store that is open Wed­nes­days from noon to 2.)

So af­ter cut­ting up the 4 pounds of big red toma­toes and seed­ing them, I no­ticed that the in­struc­tions said I had to peel the toma­toes first. So I started try­ing to peel the itty-bitty chunks of diced toma­toes, and re­al­ized that that was go­ing to take a long time. Be­sides, I rea­soned that by the time I got the peels off the first 1,000 pieces of diced toma­toes, I would lose a great deal of tomato in the process — and knew that couldn’t be good.

That’s when I de­cided that it was not too late to throw the diced toma­toes into boil­ing water to loosen the skin, a process that I dis­cov­ered was rec­om­mended for whole toma­toes be­fore dic­ing.

So I did that. But I still had to peel off the skins from thou­sands of pieces of diced toma­toes and over­all I was con­cerned that I had lost the toma­toes’ essence.

But I per­se­vered. Larry’s gaz­pa­cho was com­ing to­gether.

I paid more at­ten­tion with the funny shaped toma­toes, first drop­ping them into boil­ing water and peel­ing them be­fore dic­ing them, and that process worked bet­ter. Then I added the toma­toes pre­served in tin and the spices, which are the keys to a great gaz­pa­cho. I choose from the many bot­tles in our spice drawer.

I use sev­eral. I am ex­per­i­ment­ing with taste pro­files. I think this is a good thing.

I elect to sup­ple­ment the recipe with ex­otic spices like origami and Chew­bacca. These are part of the fam­ily of spices I have heard re­ferred to as “asth­mat­ics.” I think that is the word. It maybe helps the gaz­pa­cho-breath.

This is a con­cept I might ear­lier have re­jected un­til I read a book my daugh­ter Bri­ana gave me for Christ­mas (the Jewish ver­sion — of the hol­i­day, not the book) in which I am scolded for how I wrap my socks in a drawer and now my socks are cry­ing.

So now I open my mind to many pos­si­bil­i­ties in life.

So I fi­nally fin­ished Larry’s gaz­pa­cho — and darned if it doesn’t taste very good!

Ev­ery day, I of­fer my wife some gaz­pa­cho. It is, af­ter all, to­tally free of so many things she will not eat. I think she will try it and tell me that she likes it.

At first, her ex­cuses for not try­ing my gaz­pa­cho make some sense. Things like, “I ate some food at ten­nis.” Or, “I am go­ing to eat some left­over salad.” But the ex­cuses be­came pro­gres­sively thin­ner. Things like “I had a big meal yes­ter­day.” Or, “I don’t know, cold soup on a warm day … hmm … .”

I try my best to per­suade her to at least try my gaz­pa­cho.

Mind you, she did not wit­ness a sin­gle part of its preparation, ex­cept for won­der­ing why I have a pan of hot water that looks red­dish and has seeds float­ing in it, so she can­not be know­ingly avoid­ing food poi­son­ing.

She re­sorts to what I think are plainly in­sin­cere dodges. Things like “I am not sup­posed to eat red foods be­cause they clash with my blood type.”

And then she moves to what I spot as clear eva­sions:

Me: “Raedel, can I get you a bowl of gaz­pa­cho?” Raedel: “Have you seen my glasses?”

As you can see, the ex­cuses seem in­sin­cere.

So I gave up. I ate all my gaz­pa­cho. Ev­ery bit of it.

I had it at lunch, some­times a lit­tle af­ter my bike ride, and once a small bowl at break­fast.

And ev­ery time it tasted good.

Den­ver Post file

To make gaz­pa­cho, get some big red toma­toes.

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