Chestnuts roasting on the open fire. The glow of Christmas trees lit up by tiny white lights and sparkling as if a wink from Santa. A soft holiday song on the radio about a frozen river we could skate away on. Presents wrapped in anticipation. Cookies in the oven. It’s the coziest little scene you could imagine. Only one thing could make it more festive – some nicely chilled gazpacho.
Yes today was National Gazpacho Day and it makes me mad. Not that gazpacho makes me mad, just why have this holiday in December? This is a chilled soup that is made with a bounty of fresh vegetables. Every bite is a celebration of a local harvest. I’m not sure who invented gazpacho, it comes from Spain and Portugal, but I know they didn’t create it to help beat the chill of a cold winter’s night. This is a summer soup! We should be celebrating a nice warm soup today or a hearty chowder. Instead, I was going to have to make a chilled soup using vegetables that are not in season. This holiday journey has so many unexpected turns.
Before I began, I did a search on the internet to see, if by some odd circumstance, a local restaurant made such a good gazpacho that they featured it year round. No such luck, but I did stumble upon a link to a recipe for gazpacho from one of our favorite restaurants, the Brick Alley Pub in Newport. I’ve talked about them here before, but they are a pretty famous local restaurant with a great menu and great staff (that’s where Our Mike and Tina work). I’ve never had their gazpacho, but I’m sure it’s good. The owners source local produce for all their food so I’m sure that in the height of the summer, this soup highlights that refreshing perfectly-ripened vegetable taste. They, like most normal people in New England, don’t bust out gazpacho in the winter. But now I had their recipe. It looked like a photo taken from their actual prep manual – handwritten. I was worried for a second that I had stumbled upon perhaps a disgruntled employee posting their recipes. But no, this was legit and a recipe the BAP shares on their website. It is actually the original handwritten recipe from Ralph’s collection (who founded the Pub). Here is the link if you want to follow along.
It says on the recipe that this serves six people, but unless they are using GIANT soup bowls, I think that could be off because I made a half batch (just split all the ingredient quantities in half), and I now have enough for the week and then some. I hope a heat wave is coming this week so we can best enjoy. To get started, I went to Clement’s to get my ingredients which were refreshingly all from the produce section except for some tomato juice. On the plus side, it’s always nice be making something with only fresh produce. Tomatoes, cukes, onions, garlic, lemon juice, zucchini and peppers – not too shabby. None of the produce was at its peak ripeness though (maybe the garlic and onions). Everything else was created in hothouses or in foreign climates to meet the winter demand. That’s not a knock on Clement’s, it’s just a truth you need to deal with when making a summer soup in December. Had this been July, Clement’s would be stocked with produce from local farms and the gazpacho would taste better. When I got home, I cut up everything I could cut up and tossed it in a blender along with the juices. I had to fill the blender pitcher twice and then combine them in a big container which I then stirred it all together. I put that in the fridge for chilling. Gazpacho needs to be chilled to be at its best.
I went to scoop some out for dinner and Lola asked me what we were having. I told her, as enthusiastically as I could muster, that we were having gazpacho! It’s a chilled tomato soup! She wanted none of it. She’s not one that takes kindly to being cold in the winter. She spends her day sitting by a heater. She’s wrapped up in flannels and sweaters. She gets mad at the cold. The last thing she wanted on a cold winter’s night was a cold soup. She heated up a can of chicken noodle soup instead. I went for the gazpacho. I had to. I made a quick crema (sour cream and cream mixed together) to garnish it and took out some tortilla chips to go with it as well. The BAP suggests, as do most people, to serve it with croutons or bread and I could see how that would be an excellent addition. We were just plum out of both, so the chips would have to do. I also made some ghetto quesadillas for us made with just cheese to go along with our soups. It always helps to have a little something extra with your soup.
To be fair, it wasn’t bad at all. I love the taste of fresh vegetables, especially cucumbers and tomatoes. I like when they are all finely chopped too (blended). It’s like a really fresh salsa. The crema was a nice complement too and gave it a creamier taste. The chips gave it a needed texture as well. It was delicious. If I were to make it again, I might throw a jalapeño in there and maybe some salt and pepper too, but that’s me. If I made this on one of those hot July nights we would have loved it. But again, this is December in New England. We needed some warmth down our gullet, not more coldness. Lola actually tried some and she had the same reaction as I did. She thought it was really good, she just didn’t want a cold soup. It would be like coming inside from building a snowman and having a popsicle. Sometimes you just want the warmth.
We may eat some for lunch on Wednesday and it might be more refreshing to eat when the sun is out. Maybe we’ll just get another bag of tortilla chips and have it as a salsa. I would have been happy to have celebrated this holiday in the summer and I’ll keep this recipe in mind for when those glorious months roll around. I celebrated gazpacho as best I could today despite the cold and the non-peak ripened vegetables. Sometimes it’s all you can do when you are a quest like this. You have to roll with the punches. I just wish that seasonality played a bigger role on what day we are celebrating. I could have really gotten behind a celebration of some nice creamy soup that warmed us up today. I’m sure that day is coming …. probably next August.
Next Up: National Cotton Candy Day (uh, doesn’t that seem kind of summery too?)