Saturday, August 24, 2013

THE GAZPACHO DIARIES, WEEK 4


Gazpacho where it grows.

I learned to make gazpacho far from an electric blender. The first summer I lived in Spain, old man Vega showed me how to make real country gazpacho. Vega was the godfather of Paco and Est├ęban, the brothers who ran the village bar where I learned Spanish cooking. Vega had no family, but he did have a sizable plot of land in the campo (country).

“Many tomatoes in the fields now,” he announced one day. “Why don’t you come to the campo with me and make gazpacho?”

We arranged a day and got together a party. Our friend Irma, from Kentucky, contributed fried chicken and deviled eggs. Vega’s donkey was enlisted to carry Irma and supplies. A case of beer, wine and soft drinks had been carried down to the finca, a small farm, in the early morning and were already cooling in the alberca, a spring-fed reservoir. 

Off to the campo on the camino real.
 We were quite a caravan on the dusty camino real, an ancient country thoroughfare traveled by people, donkeys and goats. It was a steep downhill trek.

At the finca we cooled off in the chilly alberca and enjoyed a beer in the deep shade of a huge carob tree.

Vega took a basket and went to pick tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Then he dipped them in the reservoir to rinse off the sun’s heat. He set the basket at my feet, brought a giant earthenware bowl from the house with some onions and garlic. 


Picking tomatoes in the huerta (field).

Washing the tomatoes in the irrigation reservoir.

With a knife Vega proceeded to chunk a lot of bread into the bowl and moistened it with a little water. He crushed the garlic on a stone and added it to the bread. He cut up tomatoes into the bowl, mashing them as he went. Next came olive oil poured from a jug which was stored in a shed. We all helped dice up the cucumbers, peppers and some onion into the bowl.

That's me, on the left, adding spring water to the gazpacho.


Serving gazpacho where it grows.

 (The above photos, by David Searl, were copied from an article I wrote in August, 1968, in Lookout magazine.)

Garden tomatoes for country gazpacho.
At long last, I have tomatoes, peppers and cukes from my own garden, so I am recreating that rustic, peasant gazpacho. These tomatoes—I think they are the esteemed variety, huevo de toro, similar to those called “beef heart,” only named for a different part of the bull’s anatomy—have tough skins that can be peeled off easily.

I crushed 3 cloves of garlic in a wooden bowl using a wooden pestle. I soaked stale country bread (6-8 ounces) in water until softened, then squeezed it out and mashed it up with the garlic. I stirred in about ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, creating a thick paste.

Chop or grate tomatoes into bread-oil mixture.
I chopped the peeled tomatoes (about 2 pounds) and mashed them into the garlic-bread-olive oil paste in the bowl. If you don’t have tomatoes that are easily peeled, you could grate the tomatoes into the bowl, discarding the skins.

Add chopped or grated tomato pulp.

Add chopped peppers, onions and cucumbers.

 I added about 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup each of finely diced cucumber, green pepper and onions and 1 cup very cold water.




  Thick, chunky country gazpacho, ready to serve. No fridge or blender required. The perfect meal on a hot August day in Andalusia.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the memories Janet. --Anne

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  2. Gorgeous! Love these photos!

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    1. Donna: Wish I still had the original photos--I copied these from old magazine. That camino real is now a paved road and a large villa stands where Vega's old campo house was.

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  3. I have been making "your" gazpacho for 25 years now (or thereabouts). Used to take forever but, after leaving Spain and moving to the US and being the happy owner of a Blentec things have gotten a whole lot easier. No more peeling or seeding the tomatoes. I just chuck every ingredient into the machine and, voila, the most delicious gazpacho in the world. Thank you for your book, Janet. I has a lot of happy memories hidden in its pages.

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