Even before cucumbers are in season, one of the first things I think of making with them is gazpacho. So when they do come in season—and right now my garden is producing some of the best cucumbers—it's only natural that I make one of my favorite cold raw soups. Gazpacho is very popular this summer and it seems to be on many restaurant menus in New York. So why not make your own?
An Andalusian specialty, gazpacho was originally made with only stale bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Nowadays the most well known gazpacho is with tomatoes, but white gazpacho instead has cucumbers, white grapes, and almonds. It may sound unusual to have a soup with bread and almonds, but actually they are often used as thickeners in the soups and sauces of many Mediterranean cuisines. Marcona almonds are a specialty of Spain, and I love using them in this traditional way.
In this soup, cucumbers lend a refreshing note and the grapes, a slight sweetness. In Spain this soup would traditionally be made in a mortar, which is a great way to finely grind the almonds. But I take all the ingredeints and purée them in a blender. Whichever method you use, make sure to get the soup very smooth. Serve up the finished gazpacho in bowls or glasses as an appetizer—it's sure to whet everyone's appetite at your next outdoor party.
4 thick slices stale bread, crusts removed and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock, heated
2 garlic cloves
1 cup blanched slivered almonds
2 English cucumbers, coarsely chopped
1 pound seedless white grapes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
sliced grapes, for garnish
finely chopped almonds, for garnish
In a blender, combine stale bread and heated stock. Let sit until bread absorbs stock. Add garlic and almonds; purée until smooth paste forms. Add cucumbers and purée. Add grapes and purée. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar and oil. Purée until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before servings. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with additional olive oil. Garnish with grape slices and chopped almonds. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.