Garden-Fresh Gazpacho with Garlic Croutons

June 30, 2010

Garden-Fresh Gazpacho with Garlic Croutons

Varietal: Chardonnay (Unoaked)

Serves 6 to 8

This recipe comes from Penny Durant, who with husband Ken, owns and operates Red Ridge Farms. It’s a small herb and specialty plant nursery and garden shop located on a prime site with sweeping views of the Red Hills of Dundee. They even grow olive trees and press their own oil at their second venture, the Oregon Olive Mill! Penny’s recipe is as healthy as the lifestyle she represents; it serves as the perfect light, summer appetizer on its own, or a main course with the addition of chilled cooked Alaskan spot prawns, shrimp, or Dungeness crabmeat. An unoaked Chardonnay, with its citrusy notes, works well, although red-wine lovers may prefer a light, slightly chilled red, such as Lemberger or Gamay Noir.

1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups), plus any juice that accumulates (Note: See Cook’s Hint, below)

1 large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 cups)

1 small white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)

1 medium green bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed and coarsely chopped (1 cup)

One 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained

Two 11.5-ounce cans tomato juice

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, plus extra for seasoning

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

2 cups day-old artisan sourdough bread cubes (1/2-inch cubes)

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1. At least 2 hours before you plan to serve, in a food processor or blender, pulse about half of the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and bell pepper, along with the jar of pimientos and half of 1 can of the tomato juice until smooth, 15 to 30 seconds. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Repeat the blending procedure with the remaining vegetables and the other half of the can of tomato juice. Pour the liquid into the mixing bowl.

2. Stir together the puréed vegetables with the remaining 1 can of tomato juice, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the vinegar, salt, Tabasco, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours and preferably overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Refrigerate 6 to 8 soup bowls.

3. When ready to serve, rub the inside of a small skillet with the cut garlic. Reserve the garlic. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. When hot (the oil should bubble around the edges of the cubes when you put them in), cook the bread cubes, turning periodically with kitchen tongs so all the sides are coated with oil, until toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.

4. Crush the reserved garlic and add it to the chilled soup, mixing well. Ladle the soup into the chilled bowls, float a few croutons in each bowl, and sprinkle with the chives.

Cook’s Hint: To peel a tomato, cut a shallow “X” in the bottom end and drop it into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and transfer the tomato to an ice bath. After 15 to 20 seconds, remove the tomato, pat dry, and slip off the skin with a sharp knife. To seed, cut the tomato in half horizontally and gently squeeze the halves over a bowl to force out the seeds. Fingers or a small spoon work well to remove any remaining seeds.

Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

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