One interesting note that´s struck over and over in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Antipodes, is "Spanish food is real spicy, isn´t it?"
Well, no. That´s Mexican food you´re thinking of. Spanish food is another animal entirely. And that animal is probably a pig. Any Spanish eatery worth its salt has at least one great pig´s leg hanging from the rafters or posed hoof-up on the bar. These aren´t the big wet pink slabs we serve up on Sundays. No, these are dry-cured black-foot jamon hams. You eat jamon by the gram, in thin, glistening shavings. It´s barely sweet and not at all piggy or salty. It melts in your mouth, creating more of a sense of touch and texture than a taste... ah, but what a flavor! I understand jamon is now legally imported to the United States, and foodies are taking it to heart. Probably literally. The stuff is Cholesterol City. But what a way to go...
But I did not come here to sing the praises of pork. No! Today after church we spent a good 20 minutes wading through a pile of perfectly ripe vegetables: peeling, slicing, dicing, and grinding up what could be a fine salad into a superb soup. A soup so excellent and unique it has become a national obsession in Spain: Gazpacho.
Gazpacho is HUGE down in the south of Spain, where every fridge has a big jug of the stuff standing by on the top shelf, should tragedy, stress, hunger, or unexpected company strike. Gazpacho is comfort food, a summertime staple: delicious, nutritious, filling, and easy to make and serve. Every mother and grandmother has her own recipe for "Authentic" gazpacho, and claiming that yours is the best is a great way to start a loud discussion.
That said, here is the recipe I use, more or less, to make
The best Expat Gazpacho in Spain
4-inch length of bread cut from a long loaf, de-crusted and set in a bowl of water to soak.
2 pounds very ripe red tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
2 or 3 green peppers, deseeded and chopped (how many depends on how big they are)
1 4-inch cucumber or a couple of pickle-size cukes, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet onion (Spanish or Vidalia) chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.
Squeeze the water out of the bread. Put the bread together with all the vegetables in a food processor and liquefy the lot. The kitchen will smell divine. (if you remember, reserve a bit of chopped pepper, tomato, and onion for garnish later on.)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (MUST-HAVE ingredient, hard to find but worth the search!)
1 cup mild virgin olive oil (drizzle this in slowly at the end to mix well)
Process until smooth, it may require two batches. Stir in 1 cup of cold water. Test for vinegar/salt/sugar balance, then pour it into a big pitcher and refrigerate for several hours. Stir well and check seasoning again before serving in chilled glasses or bowls, with chopped veg on the side as garnish. You can add another cup of water if you prefer yours thinner.
This makes a good half-gallon of soup. Keep it cold.
No matter what your mama told you, Gazpacho does NOT have tomato juice, hot pepper flakes or Tobasco sauce in it. You (and your mama) are thinking of a Bloody Mary. Which is not a bad idea, if you made your cocktail before you added the extra water... hmmm!
If you like this, you´re going to love Ajo Blanco, a really hard-core Spanish cold soup derived from the Arabs... It´s full of almonds, pine nuts, garlic, and green grapes! I´ll give you that recipe too, but only if you ask me to.