With the dog days of summer still to come, it’s useful to have a few recipes up your sleeve that require NO cooking. Not three hours in the oven, not 30 minutes on the stove, not boiling water, not a toaster oven. There are times when raising the temperature in your kitchen, even infinitesimally, is not an option. And that is the time when our thoughts turn to gazpacho.
Everyone’s familiar with the cold red soup of tomatoes and peppers — sometimes garnished with croutons, sometimes with chopped vegetables or herbs – that is the classic gazpacho. But the world of gazpacho goes beyond cold and red. Years ago, I attended a sherry tasting dinner in New York, that was six courses of Spanish food, paired with different sherries. I don’t remember everything I ate that night (though I do remember feelings as if I had to physically roll out of the restaurant) but I do remember the first course, which was paired with a light, dry sherry — a creamy white cold soup that was heady with garlic aroma and garnished with the unexpected addition of halved green grapes. It was savory and sweet, satisfying and exciting all at once. And when I saw a similar recipe in the newspaper a few weeks ago (us Angelenos are desperately trying to hold on to the IDEA of summer cuisine, even if we are wearing our woolies while we cook it), I knew it would become a staple of my summer repertoire.
The preparation is simple — bread, water, vinegar, olive oil garlic and almonds, pureed together and served with green grapes to add their tart sweetness. Usually I am all about toasting any nuts to enhance their flavor, but in this dish, they should be untoasted and blanched. I was able to get green almonds, and if you can find them (and want to put in the time to remove the green outer “fruit”, the still soft shell, and the skins) their clear, light flavor and texture is perfect for this dish. You want to keep all the flavors clean, so they balance each other perfectly, letting the garlic shine through with the tartness of vinegar and the sweetness of grapes. If you can’t find sherry vinegar, it can be replaced with white wine vinegar, but start with a little less, and add more to taste.
You might find yourself addicted to the clean flavors, and looking for excuses not to turn on your stove.
- 6 slices french or Italian bread
- 1 cup skinned green almonds, or blanched and skinned almonds
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup Sherry vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Up to 2 cups water, plus extra for soaking the bread, divided
- 12 green seedless grapes
- Soak the bread in enough water to soften it. Take the bread out of the water (leave any excess behind), and add to the bowl of a food processor with the almonds and the garlic. Puree until the almonds are finely ground.
- While the motor is still running, add the oil slowly, then the vinegar. Add a large pinch of salt, stop the motor, taste, and add more salt as necessary.
- Add water until soup is desired thickness. Serve cool, but not ice cold, with sliced green grapes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.