Tag Archives: gazpacho

Begonia’s Gazpacho

I have been dying for some gazpacho ever since I left Spain (even when I was eating it in Spain I was dying for it).  But I’ve never been able to find a recipe I’m really satisfied with.  After tasting Spain’s glorious gazpachos (Sebastian’s in particular) my doubts were confirmed–none of the gazpacho I was having State-side was cutting it.  First of all, there are no chunks in Spanish gazpacho, it’s always completely smooth-silky even, and very cold.  What was I to do?

It’s silly that I sat in a quandary longer than thirty seconds–ARL has a resident (Basque) Spanish cuisine advisor–Begonia Colomar*!

Begonia was quick to respond to my query about gazpacho.  Over in her adopted home–Brooklyn–she’s making it constantly.  Begonia immediately agreed with my concerns about this American “gazpacho” I’ve been eating–real Spanish gazpacho must be smooth–and it must be cold (Lord knows I love the Pasta Shop but you should have SEEN the stuff they were trying to pass off as gazpacho at their counter today.  It was super chunky and by the color of it, it either had a lot of beets or red food coloring, and they were advertising a dollop of sour cream on top.  Did they get it confused with Borsht?).  Begonia says that in southern Spain she’s often seen people go so far as to put an ice cube in their gazpacho to ensure they coldness.

Below is Begonia’s recipe for gazpacho.  I doubled it and followed it exactly.

Begonia’s Gazpacho (serves two)

2 Anaheim peppers (do not substitute with bell peppers, Anaheims are sweeter, softer and more aromatic)
2-3 large very ripe tomatoes (add them to boiling water for 10 seconds to peel them)
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
1-2 tbs red wine or sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
2-3 tbs best quality extra virgin olive oil
salt [Begonia and I both swear by Maldon]

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Mix at high speed until very smooth.  Taste for point of vinegar and salt.  I like my gazpacho very, very smooth, not chunky at all so after blending I pass it through a chinois to achieve that silky, very liquefied texture.  Put it back in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.  Serve very cold.  I like to garnish it with a couple of drops of olive oil, chives, and little pinch of paprika…experiment with the garnishing…parsley, bacon, croutons, tarragon…endless variations.

After receiving the initial instructions, I wrote back with a few questions.  What about bread crumbs?  What about fresh herbs?  Only one clove garlic?

Begonia says:

I don’t use fresh herbs in the puree, but that is my purist soul.  I don’t use bread because it makes it thicker and I personally don’t like it so much.  There are millions of ways to make it.  If you want it a bit more red add one peeled canned tomato.  Also using balsamic vinegar gives a nice taste but I’m not so in to the color that results from it, maybe white balsamic.  Add 1 tbs of vinegar to the initial mix, taste it and add the second one if needed.  Experiment and choose the one you like best.

Also, previous recipes have instructed me to seed the tomatoes and peppers.  Begonia avoids this laborious step by using the chinois.  Also, Begonia told me, and I can confirm this, that the one garlic clove is surely sufficient.

ingredients

I used heirloom tomatoes (very ripe as Begonia advised).  The flavor they produced is incredible, but the peeling process was a bit harder given the deep nooks and crannies.

blender

I don’t own a food processor per se.  I have so little storage space honestly–my toaster is in the closet.  But I bought this Kitchen Aid blender at Williams Sonoma, which has food processing functions.  I pureed, then liquified the ingredients in batches, combined the results in a bowl, and repeated the process.

That produced a fairly smooth texture, but I wanted the silkiness that the gazpacho of Spain has.  I didn’t have a chinois on hand, so I reached for a sieve.  Bad call.  Too fine.  Didn’t work.  So I went out and splurged on a Rosle chinois.  Given my love of gazpacho–if gazpacho is all I use it for it will have been a worthwhile purchase.

The chinois step takes another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture won’t go straight through (those holes are small), so I poured my gazpacho into the chinois and then scraped the sides of it with a rubber spatula to keep the liquid moving.

In the end it was all worth it.

IMG_2603

The final product

I garnished it with olive oil and parsley from the garden.  The texture is super smooth and the taste is fantastic.  Every ingredient is well-represented in each sip.  The color is burnt orange–perhaps a bit on the greener side since some of my tomatoes were green heirlooms.  I love that Begonia takes the color of gazpacho into account in her recipe.

Finally, a serving note.  While I photographed my gazpacho in this pretty beaded glass bowl, since I was having it by myself as a snack I quickly transferred it to a lowball glass and simply drank it down.  I have no patience for a spoon with gazpacho.  Don’t judge–haven’t you ever seen the women drinking gazpacho in Almodovar films?  I rest my case.

*more on Begonia, her art, and her food here, here, here, here, and here.

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A Different Alameda

For our last night in Spain we went to a restaurant in the old quarter of town called Alameda (not to be confused with the small island city off the East Bay of San Francisco, nor the county in which I reside), which boasts one Michelin star.  On a previous evening we had returned to Sebastian, also in the old quarter of Hondarribia and had the chef’s tasting menu.  I thought to myself, “this is as good a meal as I’ve ever had.  If I lived here I would eat at here all the time.”  While the second sentence holds true, Alameda blew the former sentiment for lovely little Sebastian.

While I managed to take a few pictures, they relate nothing of the scale of this meal.  Alameda is run by two brothers, Gorka and Kepa Txapartegui.  The cuisine has Basque roots, but is classified by Michelin as “Inventive.”  We had two lovely, attentive, and friendly servers, but it was one of the matriarchs of the Txapartegui family who came to ensure our meal met our expectations after our entrees arrived.  Although I consider description of this meal to be a futile pursuit, I will attempt to depict some of it here.

alameda table cloth better

Often, when my dad comes to visit and I am trying to convince him of the legitimacy of my choice of restaurant on any given evening, he’ll say quite seriously, “does it have a tablecloth?  I need a white tablecloth.”  In honor of dad we’ve taken to documenting the tablecloths at various restaurants.  Alameda’s are high-quality starched linen.

amuse bouche

The amuse-bouche was a delicate, super-fine gazpacho, topped with cheese foam, parsley-infused oil, and a parmasan crisp.

spider crab

I began with the spider crab salad arranged atop a tomato reduction and topped with green apples and micro greens.  The crab was absolutely beautiful in texture.

tuna

My entree–the tuna.  This picture hardly does it justice, but eating last night was much more important to me than picture-taking, which I take as a good sign.  It’s funny I just realized that from the blog it appears that I’ve been eating a lot of tuna.  I have I suppose.  The seafood is really what to eat in the Basque country.  I have no words to describe the preparation of this dish; I can’t even remember how it was described on the menu.  All I know is what appears to be a simple tuna fillet transformed into the most unbelievable tasting thing in my mouth.  The flavors of the tomatoes, salt, fish, oil, and potato were beyond this world.  Each bite I took made me crave one more.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way before.  It was if nothing would be enough, and each time I took a bite I wished I could continue tasting what I was tasting forever.  Quite an experience.  Sort of Veruca Salt-esque I guess.

mint and melon

Dessert was fruit and cheese.  The fruit is above–a medley of melons and apples in a mint-melon sauce.  Amazing.

new cheese

Finally, the cheese plate.  From top right: a semi-soft cows milk, Roquefort topped with a dried apple slice, brie, quince paste, and the last two are two different dry manchego.  The Roquefort was especially beautiful.  There is no better way to end a meal than with Roquefort I believe.

Well, like I said, a futile pursuit.  But, perhaps if you’re ever in the area you’ll have a chance to experience it all for yourself.

At the Biarritz airport, embarking on many hours on various planes.  Ciao!

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A Perfect Day For Pamplona

We slept in this morning and awoke to foggy weather on the coast.  After a few strong cups of coffee we decided–Pamplona?  Why not?

The drive was a little over an hour, and before we knew it we were in Pamplona, in the midst of the Fiesta de St. Fermin.  We even magically found free street parking close to the city center.  Of course our first site was the miniature running of the bulls.  It was great fun.

The entire city is dressed in the traditional all white with red scarf tied at the waist and a red neckerchief.  In fact, you really stand out if you aren’t (word to the wise and any lazy ill-informed tourists who decide to wake up and go to Pamplona during the Festival of St. Fermin on a whim–wink wink).   It was almost lunchtime by the time we arrived in the city, and all of the spectators, residents and tourists alike, were filling streetside cafés.

fermin cafe

We walked around towards some of the monuments–the Palacio de Navarra, the Plaza de Castillo, etc., but then found that the real action was on the old, narrow, side streets were the bars were a little more than crowded.

narrow street

At first it was fun, but then I realized I was hungry, and the line to the bar everywhere was about six drunkards deep.  Eek!  Everyone was much drunker than I was, and probably had been for a few good hours by 2pm (being that the bulls run at 8am).  The sun was high in the sky, it was very hot, and the odors of thousands of drunk people were starting to marinate.  I was borderline panicky–where would I find food (as not being able to find food is one of my greatest fears)???  Not even the smell of baking urine (sorry!) would allay my hunger.  I had to stay strong.  “I’m a traveler.  I’m exploring Pamplona (dammit!).”

We walked towards the Cathedral.  All of the monuments were closed due to the festival, and as we got closer to the Cathedral it got quieter.  Alongside the old church many of the revelers had resorted to street-side siestas (one of my most amusing discoveries so far in Spain–the public siesta–I’d like to think it is my great esteem for human dignity that kept me from photographing these hysterical scenes).

When I had gotten to the point where adrenaline had taken over as energy supplier in place of my usual daily calories, we turned a corner behind the Cathedral and found this lovely café:

el caballo blanco

Amazing.  No house music blaring from inside?  No line to the bar?  At least one person in sight who is clearly an employee of the institution?  Sold!  You can’t imagine what a haven this little café became.  It’s called El Caballo Blanco.  The service was necessarilly brusque, but efficient.  They were out of Txakoli by that hour, so I had beer, I’m not sure what kind, but it was cold, and the nice man brought it over to my table, which made it, as far as I’m concerned, akin to ambrosia.

Much to the amusement of the clientele seated nearby (who mostly drank and smoked) we ordered a lot of food–foie gras, jamón ibérico, tomates y avocates, y gazpacho.  They all teased us to see if we would eat it all–and we did.

comida

tomates

It wasn’t until I got home tonight that I figured out the name of this café by Google-ing “cafe behind cathedral pamplona.”  What I found was this timely little piece by on the New York Times.  And what do you know?  They found the same soothing little spot behind the Cathedral.  I double checked by matching up the NY Times and my own photograph of the café exterior.  I couldn’t have planned my sojourn in Pamplona better.  While I love reading travel guides and planning, I hate feeling bound to an itinerary when traveling (you’ll later find out that although I read the Pudlo guide to the South of France cover to cover not once, but twice, I only visited two of the restaurants it lists in my two weeks in the country).  I’d rather just walk and enjoy what’s in front of me.  So discovering El Caballo Blanco was a happy coincidence.  We returned to rain in Hondarribia tired, happy, and with an appetite for a late Spanish dinner.

goodbye

Goodbye sunny Pamplona

hondarribia

Hello rainy Hondarribia

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We Made It To Spain

Of course between Paris, Marseille, Lourmarin, Guéthary, and Hondarribia (Hondarribia is the Basque, but the town is also known as Fuenterrabía in Spanish and Fontarabie in French), much is missing from my typically daily entries here.  That noted, we are very happy to be in Spain.  This part of Europe is especially striking due to the stark constrast in food, language, and terrain found just across the border from one country to another.  A twenty or thirty minute drive from Biarritz and we’re in a whole other world.  We landed in Hondarribia, in the old quarter of town at an amazing hotel called Obispo, housed in what was a 15th century palace.  I love this place.  It’s charming–old yet comfortable, and impeccably kept including all the amenities a modern girl could want (WiFi!  while it was fun to be liberated, it is fun to reconnect too).

We arrived slightly exhausted from all the fun we had with our friends, the vacationing Parisians, in Guéthary (is it possible to have too much fun?) so we did the unthinkable and sat down to dinner at 8:30 (does it count that it hasn’t been before 10PM or finished before 12AM for the last week?).  The Hotel Obispo recommended Sebastián, which happens to be just around the corner (no walk or drive to the new part of town necessary).  It looks beautiful from the outside, so it wasn’t hard to draw us in.  Here is our meal in pictures and a few words (I was too relaxed to remember to take any establishing shots, but the restaurant’s website has a good virtual tour and great historical photographs too).

sebastian window

The restaurant’s website states that “[the space] was a grocery shop several centuries ago [and] the most representative elements of the shop are still conserved, such as the window displays and glass cases once displaying the groceries which supplied numerous generations of residents of Hondarribia.”  Here are various bottles (age unknown) in the window display case.

our view

We ate upstairs.  This was our view; a window box planted with purple amaranth and ivy.  Across the street are window boxes with red and white geraniums.

upstairs

The upstairs dining area.  Note that we are among the first present for dinner…there was one other couple across from us.  The benefit of the early hour is great photographs.  I loved the alternating colors between the beams on the ceiling.  Only a Spanish chef/restaranteur could pull that off.  Honestly.

chefs suggestions

These are the beautiful cards containing the chef’s suggestions for the evening.  Qué bonita!  Las ilustraciones sólo!

tablecloth

An essential component of any fine dining experience: fine linens for the table.  I found Sebastián’s particularly soothing due to a delicate pique.

txacoli

Txacoli: it has become as essential to my existence as Almodóvar.  Sin txacoli lo que es la vida?  These tall cups (unlike the shorter versions I am used to drinking Spanish wine in) are very cool.  It is like drinking liquid ambrosia, the liquid of life.  The wine is produced in the countryside outisde of Hondarribia.

txacoli autentico

Don’t be fooled by any imitations; the “Getariako Txacolina” sticker across the foil is as essential as any Bordeaux A.O.C.  It is an extremely limited area in which these special grapes are grown, and the special wine produced.

gazpacho

Ah gazpacho, con una anchoa y algún aceite de oliva bueno

monkfish

Monkfish and shrimp–preparation unknown, rather forgotten, in a good bottle of Txacoli

tuna

The “taco de atun rojo de Hondarribia a la parilla.”  With my limited Spanish I have little clue what I ate (sorry).  I half expected some tuna in a corn tortilla.  Wrong.  What came was 1,000 times better.  It tasted like the most beautiful tuna steak seared in a deep seasoned pan of pork fat–there was surely a strong bacon-ish element that was delicious.  On the side are some crispy onions and a drizzle of parsely-seasoned olive oil.  Amazing.

brick of chocolate

I can’t be sure because I forgot to photograph the menu, but I am fairly certain that this dessert was advertised as the “chocolate brick.”  It delivered as advertised.

Overall an extremely successful first night in Spain.  We will indubitably return to Sebastián–did I mention the service is impeccable?  If, for nothing else, the fine pique linens!  Salut!

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