One of the things I enjoy most about cooking is inventing recipes, and few things lend themselves to reinvention as readily as gazpacho and salsa.
Gazpacho is like salad soup. I usually like to make it by chopping up heirloom tomatoes, sweet onions, and fresh sweet and spicy peppers, cucumbers, and parsley. I mix it all together and then scoop out half and put it in the blender with some olive oil, vinegar, garlic and tomato juice and puree it. Then I mix the pureed and the chopped vegetables together, add a little salt, and serve it up.
Here in Nayarit, it's hard to find really great heirloom tomatoes and sweet onions, so I make a pureed gazpacho rather than a chopped one, and I top it with avocado cream. It makes better use of what we have and it still tastes good.
Put the juices in a blender with the oil and vinegar and then add the rest of the ingredients a handful at time while you puree. Once the mixture is smooth, check for salt. Chill in the fridge.
Put all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy. Check for salt. Refrigerate.
Once the soup and cream are chilled, pour the soup into bowls and put a generous dollop of the avocado cream on top. It’s a great treat.
Stewed Tropical Fruit Salsa
I also experimented with making a cooked fruit salsa in order to use up fresh fruit once it goes a little past ripe. I think it turned out pretty good. See what you think.
To peel a tomato, cut an “x” about half an inch long on each cross into the end of the fruit and then drop it into enough boiling water to cover. Let it sit in the water for a couple of minutes and then remove and place in ice cold water. Once it is cool enough to handle, the skin on the end you cut should be curling back a little. It will peel off easily. If it doesn't, you haven't boiled it for long enough. If it's soft, you've gone too far and should save that tomato for sauce.
Now you know what a recipe is calling for when it asks for a tomato concasse. It’s just a peeled tomato with the core and seeds removed, usually chopped up. If you like tomato skin you don’t need to do it but, be forewarned, the skin of the tomato will curl up into tough little strips in your salsa.
Once you’ve prepared all of the ingredients, mix all of them together and let the whole mess sit for a while (a process called maceration which will cause the fruit to weep some of it’s juice). After about 10 minutes or so, dump the fruit and vegetable mixture into a sauce pot and heat it on med-low heat until it starts to bubble. Mix and mash as you go. Once the whole thing looks like chunky baby food (about 10 minutes) take it off the heat and let it cool.
Once it is safely cool, put it in a blender and puree it until it is the consistency of course catsup. Add salt if you like.
If you don’t have fresh pineapple, used canned. The crushed stuff saves you the trouble of having to chop it, but, having worked in the pineapple fields, I can tell you that what’s in the crushed stuff is what didn’t make it as chopped which, in turn, didn’t make it as rings. Juice is made from what you can’t make into anything else. Papaya is available frozen.
Up there in the U.S. you might want to substitute local fruit for the tropical fruits that I use. You can make a delicious compote with things like apples, apricots, raisins, and pears.
You can also easily find heirloom tomatoes and onions as sweet as apples for fresh salsas and traditional gazpacho, all locally grown by organic growers and available at farmers' markets. Your local organic farmers will appreciate the business, and the rewards of supporting them are delicious.
Hi Sadie, Safiya and Cat!
This soup is one of my favorites. I was inspired to make it after having it at Rosa's Mexicana, a justly famous Mexican restaurant in New York. I love the texture and flavor. I hope you do, too.
To make the soup, you need the following:
*You can substitute vegetable broth or stock if you want the soup to be vegetarian, but I like chicken stock.
Place the avocado, a cup of stock, orange juice, zest and cilantro into a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the rest of the stock and blend until completely combined. Salt to taste.
If you like heat, use the habanero. Habanero peppers have a sweet, floral taste that I like, but they are the hottest peppers out there and the soup will be noticeably spicy. If you touch the habanero with your bare hands, be sure to wash. If you touch your eyes or lips before washing your hands you'll be sorry. It'll only burn for 7 or 8 minutes but it will feel like forever.
Once you've gotten your soup nice and creamy, top it with a pile of chopped watermelon, no seeds, and a squeeze of lime. If you want a really nice presentation, pour the soup into the bowl that is created from the rind of the halved watermelon after you scoop the flesh out.
This much soup will feed around 6 people. It's a delicious change of pace and a great thing to serve chilled on a hot day.
If you have a smaller crowd or you're serving it with a large meal, I strongly recommend cutting the recipe down. It doesn't store well and avocados turn an unappealing shade of greenish black when they oxidize.
This recipe is a creation of Jon's, inspired by a story told to him by our Portland friend Brooks who had delicious carnitas in Austin, TX that were cooked in a very unusual braising liquid. The recipe calls for braising and then baking, so it's basically a two-step process requiring very little fuss, but quite a bit of time.
Here's the recipe for the slaw:
When you slice your chayote squash, don't discard the seed. It's tender and delicious, and considered the best part of the squash here in Mexico. The seed is best when cooked, but it's tasty raw as well.
Julienne means to slice into thin sticks. In this case, I made them about an inch and a half long, and just thick enough for the vegetables to maintain some crunch.
Toss all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasonings. Serve.
There are lots of variations that work for this recipe. You can add julienne strips of an apple (Granny Smith apples are especially good), or you can make it into more of an Asian influenced dish by replacing the olive oil with toasted sesame oil, replacing the salt with a teaspoon of fish sauce (or shoyu for vegetarians), and sprinkling chopped roasted peanuts on top as a garnish. You can even add green papaya and/or green mango.
I think this slaw would also be great served with fish or chicken, or as one component of a composed salad. I've been fantasizing about a Mexican nicoise salad, with brandade of bacalao, salted giant capers, rinsed and sliced in half, chopped boiled eggs, roasted anaheim peppers, and this salad with the addition of white beans out of a can, served on toasted, thin tortillas.
I love this salad because it's tasty, cheap, healthful, keeps well (it's still crunchy on the third day), and the main ingredients are local to us here in Mexico.
Hi Catherine - thought you might have a WE LOVE SMASHED VEG CATEGORY SO I CONTRIBUTED MY WINS-EM-OVER-EVERY-TIME Cauliflower dish - no dairy! Can be made very grown up by upping the garlic and the red pepper flakes!
*Adding your favorite fresh herbs bring a different taste thrill - try dill or oregano. Try a lemon squeeze over a bite-ful for a tasty zing...