It was The Wild Fig in Aspen that made me think twice about gazpacho. It was years ago, and we were just passing through town around lunch time on our way home from a visit to see family on the Western Slope. Our firstborn infant should have been reason enough for us to just swing by the town’s market, grab a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and jelly and keep moving. We still had a solid 4 hours of driving to do. But — this is Dave and I. We apparently like to live on the edge, so taking a baby to a chic little Euro-style restaurant in Aspen made all the sense in the world. Fortunately, our sweet baby Sofia cooperated. I still have the notes I made that day in the little Moleskine I carried around during the pre-iPhone era. Lunch was delicious from start to finish, we found a rosé that we’re still talking about, and I sampled a gazpacho blanco (Dave was kind enough to share) that changed my world view on gazpacho. Traditionally an Andalucian specialty, gazpacho originated like most amazing food did. . . From a peasant dish, this one most likely with Moorish influence.
I’m not sure why it took so many years, but I finally made up my mind to make my own gazpacho blanco. I did a bit of research online, and found a variety of recipes, but this one seemed to make the most sense and would deliver a result like the soup I remember in Aspen. I tweaked just a couple of things and was very pleased with the outcome, as were our guests!
recipe from Epicurious, 1999, adapted by Stephanie Kunstle
Note: make the soup a day ahead for best flavor, but make your croutons on the same day you plan to serve the soup for best crunch! Recipe makes about 8 cups.
- 2 small rustic loaves (boules about 8 inches in diameter are perfect for this)
- 5 and 1/2 cups ice water
- 6 heaping tablespoons sliced almonds
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 1 and 1/2 lbs. seedless green grapes, rinsed
- 5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 and 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and cayenne pepper
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
- Cut the first loaf into about 8 slices, 1 inch thick, and discard the mostly crusty end slices. In a toaster, or oven, lightly toast 6 slices of bread. Remove the tough bottom crust then tear the bread into pieces and place in a large bowl with 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Set aside to soften, stirring and squeezing to distribute the water. Lightly toast the almonds in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat until just golden, about 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Be SO careful not to burn them. If you over-toast a couple, pick them out to avoid any bitter flavors. Transfer the almonds to a food processor add the garlic and process until the almonds are finely ground. Add the softened bread mush, and about one-third of the grapes to the almonds. Process until the mixture is smooth, scraping the sides a couple of times.
- Transfer the bread mixture to a bowl and with a whisk gradually beat in first the vinegar, then 1 cup of the oil until fully incorporated. Beat in remaining four cups of cold water then strain the gazpacho through a fine sieve, forcing as much of the bread mixture through as possible with a wooden spoon. This will take some doing, but it’s well worth the effort. Having a larger sieve will help move things along. Season the gazpacho with salt to taste and two pinches of cayenne and refrigerate until the soup is well chilled, at least one hour.
- From the second loaf, cut 5-6 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes. Fry the croutons over medium heat in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Cut the remaining grapes in halves or quarters. Serve the gazpacho in chilled bowls topped with the grapes, cucumbers, and finally the croutons. Buen provecho!