Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gazpacho, the real way: It's all in the wrists

Most recipes for gazpacho, the fabulous Spanish cold soup, include the phrase "in a blender" or "in a food processor." But in Culinary Foundations I class today, Chef Tony Marano said he wanted our three-member team to fully use our knife skills. No blender, no food processor, no Robot Coupé. Just wrist power: knives and chopping, lots and lots of chopping.

Three of us put together the gazpacho, finely chopping onion, bell pepper, cucumber and garlic. Oh, and tomatoes. Fellow student Keejoo Hong Park concasséed the tomatoes, and I took them to a near purée with my chef's knife.

Keejoo diced and toasted bread for the bread crumbs, while fellow student Alfie Regadio assembled all the ingredients, and we jointly added a little water and tomato juice.

Finishing touches included salt, white pepper and cayenne. Alfie did the honors, and we all agreed that our gazpacho needed some heat. In went a dash of cayenne. Alfie stirred, and we all tasted. Needs more, we all agreed. Twice more we went through that ritual, getting it to the level of heat we wanted. We completed it with a little acid, from champagne vinegar, and some olive oil for smoothness and a sheen.

We presented it to Chef Tony, who suggested a touch more salt and a bit more acid via the vinegar. He also said it should be slightly thinner, suggesting that we used too much bread crumb. He also said the cayenne was at its maximum.

The challenge came on multiple levels -- no puréeing equipment, just our knives; combining the right amounts of key ingredients so they complemented rather than competed; keeping it cold; getting the seasonings, especially the cayenne, just right.

We felt successful, and it gave us a leg up: Making gazpacho, as individuals and not as a team, will be on the final exam next week.

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