“Scratch & Dent” Gazpacho
When farmers’ markets overfloweth with heirloom tomatoes, I love rescuing soft and bruised tomatoes from the “scratch & dent” boxes that most vendors use to liquidate their damaged fruit. As long as you are able to make soup, sauce or salsa the same day, they are a real steal.
Gazpacho has always been a late summertime staple in my culinary artillery. But a tip from a chef friend and an ingredient borrowed from Spain’s white gazpacho recently helped me crack the code and create an addictive chilled soup that has so many layers of flavors it lingers in your mouth like a fine wine.
The trick is to begin by emulsifying some tomatoes, stale bread, almonds and olive oil, which combine to create a rustic textured base for the remaining ingredients. This version of gazpacho is at it’s best when made with heirloom tomatoes, but there are so many flavorful components that it also shines with tomatoes of less virtuous pedigree. While the recipe may be a little more labor-intensive than others, don’t be intimidated, the ingredients will do most of the hard work for you.
1 poblano chili
3 pounds tomatoes (ideally heirlooms)
2/3 cup stale bread (ideally a rustic sourdough), cut into crouton-size pieces
¼ cup skinless Marcona almonds (or any other almonds)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium red onion
½ fennel bulb, trimmed, or 2 celery stalks
1 cucumber, skinned, seeds removed
½ cup lightly packed basil or cilantro, stems discarded before measuring
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar (ideally the good aged stuff)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ – ½ teaspoon ground Chipotle or New Mexican chili
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blacken poblano over a gas burner or BBQ. Put in a bag for 5 minutes, then peel off and discard skin. Discard seeds and stem. Reserve.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Core tomatoes, then cut a small “X” at the bottom. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 15 seconds. Remove, let cool for a minute, then peel off and discard the skins (which should just pop off into your hands).
To a food processor, add 3 tomatoes, bread, almonds and garlic. Run processor for 30 seconds, then drizzle in oil in a thin steady stream until it emulsifies with the contents (about 1 minute). Transfer the lot to a large bowl.
Roughly chop poblano, onion, fennel, cucumber and basil. Puree along with remaining tomatoes in two or three batches as necessary. Add these batches to the original bread/almond tomato batch.
Season with balsamic, lemon juice, chili powder, S&P. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
Yield: about 8 servings
Optional finishes: Add a dollop of burrata, crumbled fresh goat cheese, and/or a drizzle of olive oil.
If you halve the recipe, it should be doable in one batch in the food processor. Start by puréeing 2 tomatoes, the bread, almonds and garlic. Then drizzle in oil. Add remaining ingredients and seasonings. Purée.
Leftovers will last for three days in the fridge.