Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cucumber and Pea Gazpacho - with a side of lessons learned

So it's been awhile since I've posted. Why? Because I lost my camera!!!! =( So sad...so so sad. I've been going through blogging withdrawals until I remembered that I have some pics (not as a pretty as I'd like, but pics none the less) of a Cucumber and Pea Gazpacho I made last summer. This recipe started out as a Cucumber Gazpacho from the Cesar cook book....so why does the title include peas? ........and so the story begins.


I was having some friends over for dinner one night last year. It was after work, and I got off later than expected, so prep time was tight. In order to prepare all the menu items in time, I recruited my awesome boyfriend to help me out in the kitchen. I handed him a piece of paper: "Here, Aaron, a recipe for the the world's easiest soup. It's cucumber gazpacho. You don't need to cook it or anything 'cuz it's served cold. Just measure out all the ingredients, throw it in a bowl, stick a blender to it, throw it in the fridge, and done." It was the first time I've given him full control of a recipe for a dinner party, but it's just measuring and pouring and a little chopping, so I was sure he could handle it. Long story short - Lesson 1: 1 Cup of white wine vinegar does not equal 1/2 Cup. I look up from my slicing and dicing and look at the once new bottle of vinegar that is now about half full (see..I'm still a positive thinker here). Me: "Ummm....how much vinegar did you put in that?" Aaron: "ummm...." he looks at the recipe, then looks at the measuring cup....pauses, cocks his head to the left, "Oh shit". I didn't know whether to be upset or just laugh, so I just did the latter 'cuz Lesson 2: being upset just doesn’t solve anything.

At this point, the blender had already hit the bowl, so we couldn't exactly strain out the vinegar. We didn't have any more cucumber to double the recipe. Adding water would have made vinegar soup with cucumber essence. I needed a cold veggie that was slightly sweet and green. Think - think - think - Frozen peas!!!!! Lesson 3: Frozen peas are a good staple to have in the freezer whether it's for last minute veggie dishes, icing wounds, or fixing wounded veggie dishes. After doubling everything else in the recipe, the soup turned out great with a little bit of added sweetness from the peas, and tartness from the vinegar. Honestly – this is why I live to cook and eat. It’s an adventure everytime. For the record, I love having Aaron in the kitchen while I cook. He’s really good at chopping onions and playing the guitar for background music. Oh…and he makes the best sautéed leeks ever. Aaron – this post is dedicated to you.

Ingredients
4 cups peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped English Cucumbers (about 2 cucumbers)
4 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 1/4 Cups extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup ice water
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Garnish:
Piquillo Pepper Relish:
1/2 Cup Piquillo peppers finely diced
2 Tbs fresh mint or basil
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
Salt/Pepper

Fried Croutons
1 Baguette, torn into 3/4 in pieces
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Make the relish. Combine the peppers, mint, oil and vinegar in a bowl and season to taste w/ salt and pepper. Let stand for at least half an hour before using

To make the soup, place half of each of the ingredients into a blender and blend. Set aside in a large bowl and repeat with remaining half. Cover and chill for at least one hour

To make the Fried Croutons, pour olive oil into a shallow pan until there's about 1/2 inch of oil. Heat the oil and place the torn baguette in a couple at a time, flipping over every minute, until golden brown. Set aside on paper towel.

To serve, pour the soup in a bowl and top each portion with a spoonful of the relish, a couple croutons, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.