The Gleeful Gourmand: Mom's Gazpacho

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mom's Gazpacho

Every family has a special recipe that the matriarch or patriarch guards cautiously from prying eyes. You know the one. It's so coveted that whenever it makes its appearance on the family dinner table or buffet at a party, the whole gang cheers and slaps hands. It's the type of recipe that you don't feel right asking if it could be made for a special occasion, because it's so precious that it has to be offered by the one in charge of it.

My Mom's Gazpacho is that dish for me and my family. It only gets made a couple of times a year, in the summer when vegetables are at the peak of their bounty and freshness; and is definitely made for our 4th of July dinner. I can't remember there ever being a 4th of July, no matter where we were, that her Gazpacho wasn't on the table. Even though we expected it each year, we still would ask, a gleam in our eyes, a hushed reverence in our tone, "And you're making the Gazpacho, right? Right?"

And so it begins...
I have had plenty of Gazpacho at restaurants and none of them compare to my mother's. Maybe it's just the happy memory of my youth rushing through with the first bite. That first crunch of a tender, fresh pepper; the tang of the soup bursting on my tongue, showing me pictures in my mind of family and friends, catching lightning bugs, and watching fireworks. Or maybe hers really, truly is the best.

My hand is starting to cramp from all the chopping. I need another glass of wine.

And yes, you read that right. I said crunch. That's what sets this recipe far apart from all the other Gazpachos out there. Instead of being puréed into a smooth, textureless soup, this one boasts finely diced veggies, so that every mouthful brings cold, crunchy delight. You can actually taste all the flavors of each vegetable as you eat. Peppers, tomatoes (Mom says Jersey are the best, I say Hanover are), celery, and olives. Oh! That's another big thing. I hate olives. I hate them with a nauseated fire of a thousand suns. But I actually like them in this Gazpacho. That's how miraculous this recipe is.

I admit that it's a lot of work to finely dice all those veggies instead of throwing them into a food processor, but it's so worth it. Especially if you have someone who's willing to help you slice and dice (offering them a nice glass of wine while you work doesn't hurt either). Mom says that as much as she hates to part with this recipe, I earned it being passed along after all the years of helping her chop. Taken from the pages of Southern Living Magazine (we think) decades ago, she's changed enough of the recipe to now call it her own. Don't let summer slip away without giving it a try yourself.

This doesn't exactly show off our knife skills (hello huge chunk of radish), but it still tasted amazing.

Mom's Gazpacho

4 slices of bread, without crust and cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 cup of oil (vegetable is best)
3 Tbsp. +++ of white wine vinegar (to taste)

Put salt, garlic, oil and vinegar in the bottom of a large pot. Mash and mix, then add cubed bread and thoroughly mash and mix. Taste just a small bit of bread to make sure the mixture has enough tang. The following vegetables should be peeled, seeded, and finely diced:

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 large cucumber
small bag of radishes (not peeled)
1 can of pitted, drained black olives (not peeled)
2 stalks of celery
1 red onion
1 small mild chili pepper (optional)

Add veggies to the above mixture, stirring well. Add 8 ounces of tomato juice, and 2 ice cube, mixing well again. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Enjoy! And thanks, Mom!


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