09 October 2013

Ottolenghi's Green Gazpacho

The past few summers I've been really into making gazapachos - classic ones, and variations like salmorejo or ajo blanco. My gazpacho season really gets going around August, when tomatoes and peppers are abundant and it's too hot to do any real cooking. This summer, I spotted a recipe for a green gazpacho from the Ottolenghi Cookbook (shamefully I had never seen this recipe even though I actually own this cookbook -- it's at my uncle's house in America -- but you are in luck because it's just been issued for the first time in the States!)


The recipe caught my eye because it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get dark leafy greens into my diet here in Algeria. Who knew you could crave arugula? The spinach here is sold in leaves at least 2 feet tall and tough as nails, and the only other green option is the occasional Swiss chard bunch, or the copious amount of parsley and herbs that I already eat. A big green puree sounded right up my alley. The lovely thing about this gazpacho is that it has enough other things going on -- spicy green peppers, toasty walnuts, basil -- to make sure it doesn't come across as health food. Even my tough spinach blended in as a complimentary color, playing off the other flavors. I really love the addition of nuts to gazpacho, and the walnuts here add a depth and meatiness to the soup, though I bet almonds would also be great.

We had this as a main course for dinner, but I think it would make a lovely and unique starter for a dinner party or a side dish in little soup shooters. You can fancy up the toppings with Greek yogurt or toasted walnuts or spices like red pepper flakes or freshly grated nutmeg.


Ottolenghi's Green Gazpacho
Depending on how much water content is in your cucumbers and peppers, you may need a touch more water to get this to blend smoothly. Use a good fruity olive oil, as the flavor will come through.

2 small ribs celery
1 medium-sized poblano pepper (or green bell pepper)
2 small cucumbers
3-4 cups spinach, chopped if leaves are large (I used 3 cups)
1/2 cup basil leaves, or a mix of basil/parsley/cilantro/mint
1 scallion, white and green parts
1 small green chile pepper, stemmed and seeded and minced
1 slice stale bread, torn
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving

1. You'll probably have to do this in two batches so I find it's best to get a big bowl and as you chop just add things to the bowl. Roughly chop the celery, poblano pepper, cucumbers, scallion, and chile pepper and add to the bowl. Add the spinach, basil or herbs, torn bread, garlic, and walnuts to the bowl, and toss everything with your hands to distribute.
2. In a bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup, combine the water, honey, and vinegar.
3. Add in half of the water mixture to your blender. Add half of the vegetable/nut mix to the blender. Season with salt and pepper. Blend the mixture until well combined and smooth. With the blender running, drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil slowly so that it emulsifies into the soup. Taste for seasoning and salt/pepper to taste. Transfer to a storage container.
4. Repeat the process with the remaining water, vegetables, salt/pepper, and olive oil. Transfer the remaining mix to your storage container.
5. Chill the gazpacho for at least 4 hours before serving. If the gazpacho gets too thick add a bit more water. Stir well, serve with a bit of olive oil drizzled on top.

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