The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Besides a slight dearth in posts, there was little evidence here of my complete surrender to World Cup mania for its month-long run during June and July. Allegiances shifted from match to match, unwavering for the US, but here rooting for Mexico, there Ghana. (Always for the underdog!) By the time of the final match last Sunday, however, I was steadfastly supporting Spain – and not convinced that they would win, regardless of Paul the psychic octopus’ predictions. So when they did, in that tense 118th minute, during extra time, I was ecstatic. And hanging out with a bunch of glum Dutch fans. Oh well.

In celebration of their win, this week’s posts are about two dishes for which Spain is best known: gazpacho and patatas bravas.

This is a simple, classic Andalusian gazpacho – composed of tomato, cucumber, crusty bread and garlic. The recipe calls for roasting the tomatoes first, which lends a mild sweetness to the final product. (And is a good choice if you are stuck with some mediocre tomatoes, as I was.)

adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious

2 pounds ripe tomatoes
4 ounces roasted piquillo peppers, chopped (sub: red bell peppers)
2 small cucumbers, diced (plus extra for garnish)
3 slices from crusty baguette or similar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Sherry or Balsamic vinegar
salt + freshly ground black pepper

Garnish: croutons and diced cucumber

Preheat oven to 400.

Place whole tomatoes in an oiled baking dish and roast for approximately 35 minutes. Place the bread in a bowl of water to soften. Dice and prep the vegetables and add to a large glass dish. When bread is soft (after about 10 minutes), remove from water and gently squeeze out any excess water. Add this to the diced vegetables. Add the minced garlic, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

When tomatoes have cooled sufficiently, gently tear or chop them over the glass bowl so that it catches the juice from the tomatoes. Ladle everything into a blender and blend until smooth.

Chill for a minimum of two hours. The flavors will improve if allowed to chill overnight.

While the soup is chilling, prepare the garnish. Tear bite-size chunks of bread from the baguette and toast in a toaster oven until crisp and golden. Dice about 1/2 a small cucumber. Reserve until soup is ready.

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