A beginner’s guide to making gazpacho
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.
To make gazpacho, get some big red tomatoes.