Freshen up a Cool Summer Favorite
One question that often comes up when chefs or professional cooks get together is, “Do you have any recipes you want me to test?” It comes with an unspoken expression of respect, because it assumes that if you answer “yes” then you might be thinking about publishing a cookbook. The asker is also implicitly assuring that the recipes won’t be “stolen;” professionals look at testing not as an opportunity to plagiarize, but rather as a way to grow their own skills while extending a courtesy that will likely be returned.
There is seldom anything really new in the culinary world, and most modern cookbooks have few, if any, absolutely original recipes—most are creative adaptations or innovative modifications, built upon tried and true ideas and techniques that preceding masters have developed. It is common culinary practice to take a widely enjoyed recipe and incorporate seasonally available items or regionally loved ingredients that weren’t in the original recipe, or to develop a quicker or simpler method of preparation.
So it is with this gazpacho recipe. Gazpacho has been served almost forever in Spain, and no one can be sure just who the originator was or when it first was made, but like most good recipes, it has endured. I took the basic concept and added both regional and personal touches to enhance the “original” recipe. I have had my recipe tested by other cooks and by people whose culinary opinion I value and trust. While the basic concept of a cold tomato-based summer soup has not changed, I made this recipe mine by adding local, in-season ingredients, such as fresh corn and jicama for texture. I also enhanced the flavor by modifying the acid kick of the tomatoes with orange juice; the sweetness of the orange softens the overall tartness while the citrus flavor complements the other vegetables. I suggest you try your own ideas and make a recipe that is “uniquely” yours.
Indeed, experiment with any favorite recipe and have the end results evaluated by those you trust for honest feedback, not just those who will say the food is good to be polite.
Honest feedback is one of the best learning tools a cook can have for understanding what foods people enjoy. Have fun taking recipes and making them yours. Perhaps you too will someday write a cookbook.
—By Roy Creekmore
Great Summer Gazpacho
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup peeled and diced jicama
6 large ripe tomatoes (about two pounds), peeled, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1 large can tomato juice (40 ounces)
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme crème fraîche, optional
Combine half of all the following ingredients in a food processor: bell peppers, corn, cucumber, jicama, tomatoes, onions, garlic and jalapeños. Process the vegetables for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the processor and process again for an additional 30 seconds. Empty the puréed vegetables into a large non-reactive bowl. Stir in the tomato juice, orange juice, lime juice, chopped cilantro and parsley, Worcestershire sauce, sherry vinegar, salt, olive oil and the chopped vegetables you did not purée. Place the thyme sprigs on top of the soup and push under with a spoon. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill at least four hours or, preferably, overnight.
For a smoother soup (which some people prefer), you can purée all the chopped vegetables and then add the other ingredients; but if you really enjoy the coarser feel of the vegetables, then don’t purée anything—just stir all of the ingredients together and chill. These variations won’t change the flavor, but the soup will be very different in texture and style. When ready to serve, remove the thyme sprigs, stir the gazpacho and serve in chilled soup bowls (or large water glasses) with a dollop of crème frâiche, if desired.