The White Gazpacho Experiment + Gin & Tonics

Last week I mentioned my plan to make gazpacho over the weekend – but not the common tomato-based one. Instead, I wanted to take advantage of some of the seasonal market produce – namely cucumbers and peaches. So I call this my “white” gazpacho experiment though, interestingly, there exists an authentic white gazpacho or “Ajo Blanco” from Spain. It’s essentially blanched almonds blended with day-old bread, garlic and vinegar and topped with green grapes. It was used to feed farmers (before red tomatoes were brought to the New World), and after giving it a whirl yesterday I understand why I’ve never seen it on any restaurant menus. It’s hearty, peasant food – but not in a good way. Yuck!

So, after flipping through cookbooks and perusing recipes sites, I found a green gazpacho recipe that I liked from the Lee Bros – basically several cups of cucumbers, a couple cups of plain yogurt, cilantro, some vegetable stock and jalapenos all blended together. But I’d come across some hybrid lemon cucumbers at the market, and figured they’d be a tangier version of a regular cucumber that would hopefully give my version more zing. It turns out they didn’t taste all that different after all, which was a disappointment. Still, I forged on, but because I really wanted heat, I opted to use Serrano peppers instead of Jalapenos. I also followed the Lee Bros choice to make a red salsa (basically a simple pico de gallo) to spoon on top of the green gazpacho. I know, kind of cheating, right? Regardless, it was tasty – though perhaps too spicy for some with my inclusion of two large-ish Serranos.

The third gazpacho I made was a peach gazpacho. There are countless versions of fruit-based chilled soup recipes out there. But to keep it somewhat it the vein of a savory gazpacho rather than a fruit smoothie, I combined five large ripe peaches with one medium-sized cucumber, a couple gloves of garlic, some orange champagne vinegar I had on hand, some chopped parsley (since I’d already used cilantro in one gazpacho), and just a quarter teaspoon of Jalapeno. It was nice, better than I’d expected, not like a peach smoothie as I’d feared.

These two gazpachos (the Ajo Blanco was just too awful to serve to anyone) were carried to a friend’s for an alfresco dinner last night. The green version was spooned into miniature Japanese bowls as an appetizer of sorts, eaten with some bread and amazing lavender honey goat cheese my friends had brought back from a recent camping trip in Washington’s Methow Valley. Served also with it were my custom-made Gin & Tonics. Last week I wrote about some distilleries making craft spirits in Seattle. As part of my research, I’d bought a bottle of Batch 206’s “Counter Gin,” infused with lavender, cucumbers (sense a theme here?), verbena, tarragon and other wonderful things. To that I added Jack Rudy’s concentrated tonic (as opposed to tonic water), topped it with seltzer, and a few drops of Scrappy’s Bitters. The hands down winner was the cardamom bitter, which gave the Gin & Tonic more depth. The lime and grapefruit just kind of got lost in the gin, though I’m sure they’ll appear in other kinds of cocktails this summer.

But back to the gazpacho. The peach version was served alongside an amazing hunk of juicy, roasted Halibut topped simply with slices of lemon and served with a chimichurri sauce, rice and super crispy-fried Kale. It was a very nice complement to the fish.

We ended the evening sipping some small-batch Cherry Eau de Vie with orange, cardamom and ginger that our friends brought back from Montana – one of the best liquers I’ve ever had – as the sun began to fade and the almost-full moon appeared. These are the evenings we live for in Seattle – warm, bellies full of the best ingredients the region has to offer, in the company of good friends.

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