Cucumber Gazpacho

cucumber gazpacho soup

Cooking becomes problematic for me when the weather climbs above 85 degrees. Although I still want a delightful meal at the end of the day, I really don’t want to turn on my stove. So, what do you do when the Bay Area is going through yet another scorching week? Make gazpacho!

Until recently (uh… this week, actually) I'd never made gazpacho. I was inspired to concoct this cool Spanish soup, however, after tasting some at Cesar's Piedmont Avenue restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Unlike most red tomato gazpachos, the one at Cesar's that evening was a lovely lemony green and was made with cucumbers. It also had a bright summer flavor and was simple yet elegant.

Although I love most soups, I usually don’t go in for the cold ones. Give me a steaming hot vegetable, lentil, chicken, bean or broth soup and I’m quite happy. Cold soups, particularly the fruity variety, just don’t do it for me as they seem like the remnants of a smoothie left out on the counter. Cesar’s cucumber gazpacho, however, was in a class all its own. Smooth and cucumbery, with hints of lemon and vinegar, it was both refreshing and satisfying. My friend Ann and I liked it so much we wiped the plate clean with our bread.

The manager at Cesar's, Kathleen Ventura, was nice enough to give me a copy of the recipe, created by Chef Maggie Pond, when I asked for one. She also said she didn’t mind if I shared it here (thank you, Kathleen). The proportions are on the large side (as with any restaurant recipe), so I cut it down for home use.

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When I made the gazpacho this week, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to prepare. I left off the fried croutons and pepper relish, and garnished with some simple cucumber slices instead. I also used Persian cucumbers instead of English cucumbers, simply because they were available at the store where I was shopping. I would think either English or Persian would be fine, or another variety without too many seeds, which can be bitter.

Following is the Cesar’s recipe, trailed by the home version I made that has smaller proportions. If you’re in the mood for a soup that takes less than five minutes to make, is cool and refreshing, and looks pretty in a bowl than I highly recommend it.

Cesar's English Cucumber Gazpacho

Serves: over 12

Ingredients:
8 English Cucumbers
1 1/4 cup Olive oil
1 cup Ice cold water
1 clove Garlic
1/2 cup White wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black pepper
1/2 tsp Cayenne

Preparation:
1. Peel cucumbers and rough chop. Place all the ingredients in a large bow.
2. In small batches puree mixture in a blender.
3. Serve with fried croutons, a spoonful of pepper relish and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Note: For the best results, this should be made in a high speed blender. If you use a food processor you must remove the seeds from the cucumbers.

Home Recipe for Cucumber Gazpacho

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
2-3 English Cucumbers or 10 small Persian cucumbers (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Ice cold water
1/2 small clove Garlic
1 Tbsp White wine vinegar
2 tsp Fresh lemon juice
dash of Salt
dash of Black pepper
a minute sprinkle of Cayenne

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Preparation:
1. Peel cucumbers and rough chop. Place all the ingredients in a large bow.
2. In small batches puree mixture in a blender.
3. Garnish with cucumber and a smattering of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
4. Serve with a fresh baguette.

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