Why Hello There, and Welcome back to Kitchen Catastrophes, where one man’s mistakes are that same man’s meals. I’m the eater of my own regrets, Jon O’Guin, and happy Labor Day to my American friends and readers! The day where we celebrate America’s labor unions, an institution we’ve honored for over 100 years with its own federally mandated holiday, while demonizing in our mass media, and allowing/forcing membership to decline to 1/3 of its peak levels! America: if we make a day about it, we don’t have to deal with the repercussions!
If that intro was a little bleak, my apologies, I’m just a little off-balance today. I always am, with holidays. They break my internal rhythm, typically because someone demands something of me, eating into my standard loafing hours, then I have to move loafing back, which pushes back personal productivity…it’s all a mess.
If only there were someway to relax. To…’chill’, as the youth says. Luckily, I know of a dish guaranteed to beat the summer heat, and it’s a doozy of dish that’s a cinch to make. I bring you Gazpacho!
Time to Get Gaz-lowe with Gaz-pa-cho!
And there’s no time to waste, as Time is Money, friend, as a little green dude once told me. Before I blasted him with a lightning bolt and my lizard buddy drug him into range of our cannons and he died. Video games are weird.
Anyway, this post actually matches up weirdly well with something that happened just today, either because of some sort of mystical connection across time and space, or because my brain is an echo chamber of my own thoughts, whispering back to me from my own subconscious, reinforcing the behaviors and paths I’ve already walked. Though, at a fundamental level, isn’t that what a personality IS? Just you telling yourself what kind of person you are, making it true through repetition of action? If this seems like a weird talk for a simple soup, firstly, welcome to what I can only assume is your first post from us, and second, this is NOT a simple soup, it’s AN
"It's an unusual soupS, Jon? Couldn't find a book whose title was the right tense?"
Also, I bought this for $0.50 today. That's the thing that fits weirdly well.
Thirdly, (and yes, I am going to ignore Caption Jon’s jests.) trust me, this soup is weird stacked on weird, with hints of confusing. And fourthly, it’s after 2 AM, because, as mentioned, the holiday totally threw off my schedule. As did all the time I spent outside this weekend, disgustingly DOING things. On a weekend! A HOLIDAY weekend no less! I am literally wobbling in my seat I’m so tired. So…fuck that noise. Past Jon is Passin’ Out! FUTURE JON, SOLVE THIS PROBLEM FOR ME.
7.5 Hours Later
Of course he did. As ever, PAST Jon has all the fun, and makes the bad choices, and leaves it to ME to sort out. That son of a bitch. Who is me. Whatever. I never said I was abandoning the Multiple Jons format/mental structure. I just said I understood why I did it. Let’s move this along.
Gazpacho is a really weird word. Just phonetically, that’s not a common Spanish structure. Z followed by P? That should, normally, have a vowel in there. Try it: throw a short “ee”, “ah”, or “uh” sound between the Z and P, and just HEAR how that sounds more Spanish. (though the ‘ee’ does sound a little Italian. “Ga-zi-pa-cho”) That’s because it’s technically NOT Spanish. It’s Andalusian, a dialect of Southern Spain that was heavily influenced by the Moorish invasion of Spain we discussed back in the pinchos morunos and zeppoles post. The word, to etymology’s best guess, is an alteration of a very specific and weird word: gazophylacium, which is the Latin word for… “Treasure Chest in a Church”. More specifically, or intelligibly, it refers to the box into which the congregation’s offerings would be gathered.
Which only now do I realize that I really had no idea where the money we put in this thing went.
The belief is that, since such a box immediately following service could have a wide variety of things in it (you know how people donate food to the church for the needy? That used to be part of the offering thing. So at the end of the service, you could have money, little toys, various foods, just a jumble of stuff.) that the soup was named after that. And that’s because of how Gazpacho came to be, and how it’s made.
Scraping the Bottom of the Pot
See, gazpacho is fairly old, as consistently made dishes go, generally considered to have been developed sometime around 220 BC, when the Romans seized the Andalusian region from Carthage. It consisted of a mixture of bread, olive oil, garlic, and vinegar/water. It was a simple peasant’s meal, served cool to fight the heat of summer, with various vegetables diced or mashed into it.
After the discovery of the new world, for some reason (probably their growing season and high liquid content) tomatoes became a core vegetable for the soup. This is the recipe most people are familiar with: tomatoes, bread, some cucumber, some bell pepper or squash, and the garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.
As my mother so vividly put it "kind of like drinking salsa."
Though...salsa doesn't have much vinegar or cucumber in it...
But, as we just mentioned, the vegetables aren’t what makes a gazpacho. And that’s lead to a modern trend of various chefs ‘tinkering’ with the recipe using different produce to…produce…different results. These are typically organized by their resulting color: a gazpacho relying on Avocado, cucumber, and spinach would be a “Green Gazpacho”; one that used orange juice, carrots, and heirloom tomatoes would be “Orange”; a dish focusing on…let me think this one out…fennel, apple, and…potatoes(?) would be a “white gazpacho” and so on and so forth. You’ll also see a lot of people play with what a “Red” gazpacho can be, substituting Watermelon or Cherries or Beets as the base coloring agent.
As you might have noticed, this has created something of a trend where, while traditional gazpachos are rather savory, modern ones might be notably sweeter. “Dessert Gazpachos” have been making appearances on avant-garde tables for almost a decade now. And that’s what we’re dealing with today: a dish centered around fruit.
Chefs, Start Your Engines
That’s right! Thank you Title Jon, I’d almost forgotten. Another reason that Gazpachos are popular these days is that modern technology has made them REALLY EASY. In medieval times, the bread, veggies and garlic had to be pounded with a mortar and pestle into a paste, that you then mixed with the oil and vinegar. Or you formed the base and simply stirred in the diced veggies. Either way, it’s not uncommon for modern gazpachos to be predominantly blender-based meals. This recipe, for instance, consists of “put ingredients in blender. Run until smooth. Chill and serve.” Others I’ve seen are as simple as “cook berries together with juices for 10 minutes. Chill for 4 hours. Serve.” The MOST complicated I’ve seen have been to the effect of “Blend these 6 ingredients. Mince these ones. Stir minced ones into blended. Chill and serve.”
I thought I had a picture of all the ingredients in the blender to put here, but it turns out I didn't.
Please enjoy these grapes in the meanwhile.
Now, my recipe was, as the title told you, for Red Grape Gazpacho. I found it in a Food Network Magazine article for ways to make a “pretty in pink” meal for Mother’s Day: the gazpacho was pink, there was fish with a pink sauce (made from blood orange and pomegranate juice, and other things I didn’t devote the attention to remembering.
And as with all the recipes I’ve been discussing, it’s rather easy. A couple cups of grapes, cup and a half of bread, cucumbers, a TOUCH of garlic, and some olive oil and red-wine vinegar. It seemed like a no-brainer, easy-peasy dish. So of course I messed it up, basically immediately. I made the elementary mistake in careful construction: I didn’t measure. Or, rather, I measured wrongly. See, I THOUGHT the measuring cup I had grabbed, being, as it was, the largest cup in the stack of quite a few cups, was, well, 1 cup. It was not.
Not the first time I've given someone only 3/4s of what I said I would.
This wasn’t as bad a mix-up as any of a couple things I could have screwed up. In cooking, it’s only rarely the actual AMOUNT of a food that matters, but rather, the RATIO of ingredients that’s important. There are entire cookbooks dedicated to this principle. And further, this dish supposedly serves 4, or 8 as a light snack, and, with the passing of my father, that leaves 3 people in the house. Boom! Proportionality! I just needed to modify every ingredient to ¾ of listed, and we’ll be fine.
Except we won’t, because I’ve been ROBBED. See, both my mother and myself needed cucumbers for recipes we were working on, and while I specifically grabbed seedless hot-house cucumbers for blending, she apparently used them all for HER recipe. I will have to be satisfied with NORMAL cucumbers. (Actually, we had just stored the two different kinds of cucumbers in two different places in the fridge, and had I spent literally 30 seconds looking, I’d have found the ones I wanted. This is what’s called in sports an “unforced error”: a mistake made in a no-pressure situation, over something simple or easy. In layman’s terms “a fuck-up, and definitely my fault.”)
Once it’s all blended together, it looks…not really pink at all.
Looks kinda banana-y.
That’s irritating. But, hey, it’s going to chill for a while, maybe it’s like, a bleed effect: the grape skins, now broken, will leak coloring liquid into the rest of the soup, making it pink. SPOILERS: it didn’t. How it looked after blending is how it looked later. Maybe this was because I had a short chilling window, only waiting about 45-50 minutes. (DOUBLE SPOILERS: It wasn’t. We had left-overs, and they looked the same 2 days of chilling later as they did when blended.)
So, if we already know how it looks, how does it taste?
Fine. Not great, not BAD per se, but fine. It wasn’t as smooth as we thought it would be (texture-wise, think of like, grocery store apple-sauce. Not ‘chunky’, but a kind of ‘soft gritty’, or ‘innocuously mealy’. ) Flavor-wise, it wasn’t particularly boldly anything THERE either. Sweet, with some lurking bitter notes that weren’t ENTIRELY pleasant, but weren’t particularly bad either. They had my mother convinced for her first few bites that there was celery in the soup, but were otherwise inoffensive.
It’s possible the texture AND bitterness were both from the fact that I used cucumbers with seeds, instead of seedless ones. (And yes, I COULD have just used the meat without the seeds…but I didn’t think of that until I was already half-way through cutting the thing, and I couldn’t be bothered.) Overall, we didn’t dislike it, and it was actively noted that, in the future, we could try a couple things to improve it, so I think it laid a solid foundation.
Gaze upon my pacho, and despair.
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THURSDAY: JON GOES ON A TRIP, AND TAKES A TASTE OF THINGS. WHAT THINGS? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT.
MONDAY: DELAYED GRATIFICATION FOR FANS OF FUSION, AS THE LAST DISH OF MASH-UP MAY IS FINALLY DELIVERED.
Red Grape Gazpacho
2 cups seedless red grapes
1.5 cups chopped (peeled, seedless) cucumber
1.5 cups rustic white bread, crusts removed
½ of a small clove of garlic
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water
Additional salt, olive oil, and (optional) pink peppercorns for topping
1. Add all ingredients except toppings to a blender. Blend until smooth, at least 1 minute. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. Pour into small bowls, top with salt, olive oil, and peppercorns if desired. Serve cold.