(In our world, Sam and Meredith are famous for their good ideas.)
The plan was to play a game called Agricola.
But we wound up with too many people for that, so we broke off into groups: Team Agricola, Team Settlers of Catan, Team Bananagrams, and the wishful Team Naptime, which was quickly disbanded when it was noted that sleeping is not a sanctioned Game Day activity. I played six rounds of Bananagrams and won none. My new life goal is to win once, only once, at Bananagrams. I don’t ask for a lot.
On the upside, we also ate some cheese, and we drank a little beer. Meredith roasted dates. Olaiya steamed mussels in white wine.
And most important for today’s purposes, my friend Keena taught me to make a spectacular gazpacho, which is big news, because I don’t usually like gazpacho. It often tastes flat and tinny, like canned tomato juice, and on a particularly unfortunate day, it can resemble a regrettable attempt at salsa. Keena’s is neither. It’s smooth and almost creamy, an opaque shade of orange, with a whiff of olive oil and a kick of sherry vinegar. The only sad part of this story is that I was so busy getting destroyed at Bananagrams that I downed it before I thought to take a picture.
I’m on the road this week, and my Internet connection is so slow that getting this thing posted has aged me by about a year, but I wanted to say hi. That, and that you should drop everything and make this gazpacho, before the good tomatoes and peppers are gone. It’s going to be a long, hard winter of tubers and crucifers. This is our last hurrah.
Keena’s gazpacho starts with olive oil, which you put in a blender and whip at high speed. It’s an unusual step, and it’s the key, I think, to this recipe. It gives the soup its light, nearly velvety texture, as though you’d sneaked in a dash of cream. When the olive oil thickens and begins to froth, you add garlic, sweet peppers, cucumber, and a combination of yellow and red tomatoes, and then you let it rip along on high for a while longer, until the mixture is smooth enough to be sipped from a glass, if you’re a gazpacho-sipping kind of person. If not, you can spoon it from a bowl. Either way, you’ll want to splash some sherry vinegar into the blender before you serve it, because that’s the spark that gets it glowing.
My friend Keena learned to make this gazpacho from her sister-in-law Margot. But I still call it Keena’s Gazpacho, because she’s put her own twist on it. Here are some notes to consider before you start:
- Keena uses heirloom tomatoes for their flavor and color, and at a minimum, she uses at least one yellow tomato, so that the finished gazpacho has a beautiful orange color. She tells me that when she tried making the recipe with only red tomatoes, it worked fine, but the taste seemed a little flatter and the color was less pretty. Her sister-in-law once made it using all Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes and a yellow pepper instead of a red one, and the resulting gazpacho was a pretty shade of green. Whatever tomatoes she uses, Keena makes this gazpacho in a 7-cup blender, and the size of the blender determines how many tomatoes you can use. She uses as many as will fit in her blender jar.
- Keena likes her gazpacho smooth and sippable, but her sister-in-law garnishes it with diced cucumber and bell peppers, so that it’s a little chunky. You can do whatever you want.
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 - 2 garlic cloves
½ of a green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
½ of a medium to large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ to ¾ of a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 - 3 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
Salt to taste
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Score an “X” into the bottom of each tomato, and then blanch them until the skin begins to peel back around the “X.” Remove from the water, cool them until they’re not too hot to handle, and then peel. Remove and discard the stems, and cut out the rough spot where the stem attaches. Chop coarsely.
Put the olive oil in a blender, and blend on high speed until frothy. Add the garlic, and process briefly. Add the bell peppers, cucumber, a couple pinches of salt, and as many tomatoes as will fit comfortably into your blender. Process on high speed for a while, stopping the blender from time to time to scrape down the sides of the jar and mush around the ingredients as needed to allow the blender to run smoothly. (The mixture will be fairly thick until the tomatoes are pureed.) Let the blender go as long as you can stand the noise; the longer it goes, the better it will taste and the creamier it will be. Add 2 tablespoons of the sherry vinegar, and process to incorporate. Taste, and add vinegar and salt as needed.
Chill thoroughly before serving.
Yield: about 6 servings