I’m pleased to announce that in the next few months two separate publications will feature different versions of “The Saffron Rabbit,” a story about how I learned to cook when I lived in Madrid. I won’t give too much away, but I’ll say that it involved my landlady, an elderly woman named Valentina who brought her granddaughter to translate and was a little too happy to use her cane as a correction tool for poor knife skills. In honor of those publications, and of Senora Valentina, I will be presenting a new series where several times a month I post Valentina’s recipes (along with a vegetarian/vegan adaptation). Please visit in the coming months for more Spanish recipes straight from Valentina’s Cocina (kitchen). As this is the first post, I’ll start where she did, with a simple Gazpacho.
Authentic Madrid Gazpacho
Many households in Madrid keep the concentrated version of this in the fridge, adding water to serve to drop-in guests on scorching afternoons. I’ve seen variations of Gazpacho recipes, but if you don’t include the bread, it’s not Gazpacho. Or so sayeth Valentina. It’s a great use for stale bread.
2 slices stale white bread, crusts removed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBS olive oil (Spanish if at all possible!!)
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped, with some of the skin removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
4 to 5 ripe red tomatoes, skinned and seeded
2 TBS sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar will work if you don’t have sherry)
scant 3 cups ice water
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cumin (This was my landlady’s secret tip)
- Soak the bread in water, then squeeze it out. Put it in a blender or food processor with the onion, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Puree.
- Add the cucumber to the mixture and puree. Add red bell pepper and puree. Finally, add the tomatoes and vinegar and puree. Chill mixture for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight. (You can put it in the freezer, but I think it doesn’t taste as good this way.)
- When you are ready to serve, dilute the mixture with ice water (don’t use ice cubes!!) and season to taste with cayenne pepper and cumin (I like mine hot). Arrange a selection of the garnishes listed below for people to add to the basic soup.
4 TBS fried croutons
2 hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped
4 TBS chopped red, green, or yellow bell pepper
4 TBS chopped onion or green onion
Green or black olives, pitted and chopped (Spanish if possible!!)
Vegan/Vegetarian Options: This recipe is already fundamentally veg*n friendly. Just make sure that you are using vegan bread (or make your own) and omit serving the eggs as a topping choice.