Discovering the Many Joys of Cold Vegetable Slurry

Gazpacho is one of those things that sounds great on paper. You think—hey, look at me, I’m getting all sophisticated and European, here. You might imagine yourself enjoying the cool, refreshing vegetables and broth in the fierce heat of an Andulasian afternoon, maybe before going out to the bullfights later. But once you’re actually in the process of making this dish, you begin to wonder at what point the idea of putting cold, chunky tomato soup into your mouth is going to start to seem appealing. I don’t know—maybe you have to be Portuguese or something to get it.

Anyway, I’d just reached the point where I was seeding and grating the fresh cucumber into the broth when I realized that I had no desire at all to eat this soup. But out of sheer bloody-mindedness, I kept going with the recipe, making a few tweaks here and there. After all, didn’t I deserve the inevitable disappointment by taking on this project in the first place? At least my wife would know that the result hadn’t been from lack of effort.

There are many varieties of gazpacho, though I suspect they’re more or less equally unpalatable. Here’s the version I tried—and failed—to make:

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, diced (If you want to put the effort into it, you should probably peel the skin off of them—just think about the kind of people who fingered the produce at the supermarket before you bought it. If you want to know the best technique to do that, look it up yourself—it’s not my responsibility to tell you everything. Otherwise just buy a can of pre-peeled tomatoes like I did. I’m not the Barefoot-freaking-Contessa.)
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 small, sweet yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed (Like your hopes and dreams.)
  • 1 seedless cucumber (Sometimes called an “English”  cucumber—I don’t know why. Maybe it’s to recognize the nation that had the great idea ofactually making sandwiches out of these horrible, damp, flavorless things.  Naturally, I bought the kind with seeds because that’s all they had at the store and I wasn’t about to go driving around town looking for a replacement.)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp dried basil (Fresh basil is better, but why waste it?)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups cold water

Preparation

Grate the peppers, onion and cucumber into a medium mixing bowl, then add the diced tomatoes. Some recipes suggest that you do all sorts of crap like putting the vegetables through a hand-turned food mill and squeezing the pulp through cheesecloth or something. Why bother? It’s not like any of that is going to improve this thing anyway. Just use a food processor to turn the ingredients into a coarse, unpleasant slurry.

Anyway, mix in the salt, herbs, spices, lime juice and water into the vegetables. If the resulting mixture pretty much looks like the remains of a pulverized raccoon on the interstate, you’re doing it right. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over the mixture in a futile attempt to increase its visual appeal.

I’ve seen versions of this dish where they suggest putting a tablespoon of sugar into the mix to offset the acidity—probably a good idea.  You can also use tomato or vegetable juice instead of the cold water to give it more flavor and body, though God knows why. I strongly recommend serving this with a nice, crusty, hearty loaf of bread so you have something to fill up on when you finally realize that you don’t care for gazpacho at all.

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