Classic summer soup defies today's food fads

FRANK ON FOOD

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Frank Chlumsky

Many of the food items popular on menus during the era preceding what's now called the American Culinary Revolution are either ignored, overlooked or held in contempt by a number of contemporary chefs, unaware of the importance of attempting to bring a classic dish to repeated perfection.

Even if some of those foods remain in today's repertoire, they're subjected to a set of variations or revisions that may well serve the creative spirit of the chef, but too often leave the expectant (dissatisfied) diner in an exasperating state of confusion. Variations on a theme, indeed. But so it goes in today's culinary world.

Right now it's summer in the culinary world and a perfect time for a cold and refreshing bowl of gazpacho. Gazpacho became popular in Chicago during the 1960s and it remains one of my all-time favorite soups. Icy cold and delightfully spicy, this creation from the Andalusia region of Southern Spain perfectly captures the essence of summer's bounty. I learned how to make it when I worked at the Red Carpet, formerly located at Dearborn and Elm streets on Chicago's North Side.

Unfortunately, today gazpacho is one of those soups that few chefs agree on. Some recipes call for bread soaked in olive oil. Some include vinegar. Some insist that all the ingredients be chopped by hand, while others prefer the texture rendered by a blender or food processor. Everyone, though, says it contains only raw vegetables. Except me.

Here's how I do it. Admittedly, we made gazpacho differently at The Red
Carpet, and this recipe is unlike any
you'll see in contemporary cookbooks.
But it's the way almost every restaurant made it back then and in its own way it
was a Chicago classic. Gone but not
forgotten.

1/4 cup olive oil

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 bunch scallions, chopped fine

3 stalks celery, chopped fine

6 parsley stems, chopped fine

2 green bell peppers, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small (14-ounce) can pitted black olives, coarsely chopped

1 small (14-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes (including juice) seeded and chopped

1 large (46-ounce) can V8 juice

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

Tabasco sauce (optional)

1 seedless cucumber (including peel) shredded

6 to 8 slices white bread, day-old or toasted

3 tablespoons butter or oil

In a large heavy pot (without browning) sauté the garlic, onion, scallions, celery, parsley stems and green pepper for 5 minutes.

Add the cayenne pepper and cook for
1 minute.

Add the chopped black olives, chopped tomatoes, V8 juice and bay leaves.

Add salt and fresh crushed black
pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Add optional Tabasco to taste.

Let cool and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.

Serve in chilled bowls garnished with shredded cucumber and croutons

For the croutons:

Remove the crust from the bread (if you like) and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Heat the butter or oil in a frying pan and add the cubes.

Fry them gently until they're golden brown, tossing them occasionally.

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