Le Club 55's Gazpacho à Vincent
||Most versions of gazpacho in California are chunky-style.
They consist of a pureed tomato soup mixed with finely chopped onions,
cucumbers and peppers. This recipe is very different! All the ingredients are
processed in a blender to produce a smooth and delicate summer soup. It's seasoned with finely chopped
fresh mint and a generous dash of Tabasco. The preparation is very easy, but the
secret is getting the right balance of ingredients so the gazpacho sparkles. Credit for this
recipe goes to Vincent, a chef at Le Club 55's lunch restaurant at foot of Blvd. Patch on
the Pampelonne Beach in Ramatuelle, near St.-Tropez (France).
Vincent's generous use of Tabasco,
which gives his version a subtle kick, comes from his Tunisian ancestry. The hand-written
recipe that Vincent gave me was for a restaurant-sized batch of 40 servings. He only
listed the ingredients and didn't include any instructions. So I've
adapted the recipe to serve 8-10 and included my interpretation of how he
would prepare the soup.
The end result comes very close to Vincent's version. But
nothing can compare to sipping cool spoonfuls of his version under the tamarisk trees at
Le Club 55.
1 kg. very ripe, fresh tomatoes (use juicy tomatoes -- not Romas)
1 kg. fresh, red bell peppers
1 1/2 average-size cucumbers
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves (remove leaves from woody stems)
2 small young white onions
2 cloves of garlic
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS salt
Tabasco (to taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
- Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds or hold them over a gas flame
to char the skin. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin. Cut the
tomatoes in half (crosswise) and squeeze out the seeds over a sieve (to catch the
juices). Coarsely chop the tomato pulp. (Reserve the juices and add to the
final mixture after processing through the blender.)
- Broil the whole peppers in the oven on a flat baking sheet (cover the
sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up). Turn
the peppers every few minutes so that the skin is evenly charred on all sides.
Remove them from the oven and place the charred peppers in a plastic bag or paper
bag. Close the bag opening and let the peppers sit (steam) about 30 minutes, or
until cool enough to handle. When cool, remove from the bag and carefully peel off
the charred skin. Then cut each pepper in half (lengthwise) and remove the
seeds. Coarsely chop the roasted pepper flesh.
- Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds from each half with a
teaspoon. Coarsely chop the pulp.
- Cut the baguette into slices and arrange in one layer on flat cookie sheet.
Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar evenly over all the slices until they are thoroughly
saturated. Set aside for at least 30 minutes so the crust will become moist.
Making the Gazpacho:
- Put handful of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, a few pieces of onion, a few baguette
slices, some mint and garlic into the blender and process until very smooth. (Don't worry
about the balance of each small batch. The batches are mixed together, so the flavors
will balance out at the end.) If the texture is not smooth enough for you, then pass
the pureed mixture through a medium-mesh sieve. Continue in the same way until all of the
ingredients have been processed. Mix all the batches together.
- Add salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste (the soup should have a nice kick).
- Keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.