by Kate Heyhoe
About this time of year, as summer vegetables wane and autumn harvests surface, I feel like a vacationer on a train that's pulling away from a sunny, country station. I watch as the station gets smaller and smaller until it's no longer visible. Then I sit back and reflect on the good times I had while visiting, and anticipate returning home, to a place that's good in its own way, comfortable and cozy.
Right now, before the train pulls out, make a last blast at enjoying the fruits and vegetables of summer. You can still buy juicy ripe tomatoes, crisp peppers, crunchy cucumbers and sweet watermelon, fresh from roadside stands and farmers markets. and in many places, triple digit temperatures reinforce that summer does not indeed end officially until September 21.
This year, I'm cooling off and winding down the season with icy cold gazpacho, a signature dish of Spain's Andalusia region. Originally this 17th Century Arabic soup consisted of just bread, olive oil, water and garlic, with the Roman addition of vinegar, an ingredient the Romans frequently used as a refresher. Eventually, Andalusian field workers needing a modest lunch and instant relief from the fiery heat added tomatoes and peppers, arrivals from the New World, transforming it into today's classic red gazpacho.
Many variations have evolved, including a white gazpacho made from almonds and melons, and winter gazpachos that are served warm. I've taken the ultimate symbol of American summer, watermelon (which actually hails from Africa), to blend with colorful sweet peppers, tart green apple, tangy vinegar and other ingredients for a different thirst-quenching heat antidote, rich in antioxidants and virtually fat-free.
A food processor (or blender) makes fast work of both the Simple Garden Gazpacho and the Watermelon Gazpacho, but I try to avoid overprocessing—I prefer ingredients with some texture, although in Spain, gazpachos are often smoothly puréed. Or, you can chop the vegetables into pieces and mash in a mortar, just as gazpacho was originally made in Andalusia. Keep a big bowl in the fridge for an instant snack or light lunch, served with chips, flour tortillas or crackers on the side.
For variety, throw in some seafood, olives, herbs, nuts, grapes, ham, celery, carrots, white beans or chickpeas. Gazpacho is as much as a salad as it is a soup, and even in Spain the variations are limitless. But the key to great gazpacho is achieving a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, with a slightly salty accent and a touch of picante.
I hear the whistle blowing...time to ladle up the gazpacho and go.
Kate's Global Kitchen for September, 2001:09/01/01 Scoring Points
Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created September 2001
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