Life in San Francisco sure does screw up one's sense of the seasons - so much so that I hosted a Supper Club celebrating the beginning of summer...
...a week after Labor Day.
It's consistently sunny and warm these days (as compared to August, when I had the foggiest and coldest birthday party of my life). In fact, the only way you can really tell what season it is around here is by what's ripe at the farmer's market. Luckily, while fall's deep gems are creeping their way into the rotation, there's still plenty of summer goodies to cook up for a dinner with friends. That's just what I did last week, when I started my dinner with friends with this vegan and nearly-raw soup. While it's quite a long process to put it together, the end result is quite transcendent - it tastes like everything bright and good about summer in San Francisco.
NOTE: This recipe will put some serious miles on your blender. Don't worry too much about a thorough cleaning after each go - I just rinsed it out (it's all being mixed together eventually anyway!)
Golden Gazpacho w. Sriracha Granita & Basil Oil
adapted from Serious Eats by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
- 4 pounds very ripe yellow tomatoes, cored (I used a mix of super flavorful baby tomatoes and larger heirlooms)
- One medium cucumber, peeled & seeded
- 1/2 pound (about 1 medium) red onion, peeled
- 1/2 pound (about 2 medium) yellow or orange bell peppers, cores removed
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 6 ounces (about 3 slices) white sandwich, French, or Italian bread, crusts removed and set aside (no sourdough or otherwise strongly-flavored bread, but GF should work)
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (white or red wine vinegar will work too)
- One container (about 10oz) red cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tb sugar
- 2 tsp sriracha or other hot sauce (to taste)
- 1 Tb tomato paste (if you don't have any, ketchup is acceptable - this is for color)
For basil oil:
- 2 cups basil
- 1 cup mild olive oil or grapeseed oil
Roughly chop tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and pepper into one-inch chunks. Combine with garlic and salt in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, start on the granita:
Blend one container of red cherry tomatoes in the blender until reasonably liquidated.
In a pan, combine water, sugar, sriracha, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer, pour in the tomatoes. Stir to combine and transfer to a wide bowl or baking dish (a cake pan would work well).
Put granita into the freezer.
Back to the soup:
Drain accumulated veggie juices into a large bowl and add the bread. Transfer the drained vegetables to a rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer until vegetables are frozen, about 40 min.
When the soup veggies are frozen, remove them from the freezer. While you're in there, give the granita a brisk stir with a fork. You'll want to do this every 45 minutes or so from here on out so it doesn't become one big ice block. Allow the veggies to sit at room temperature until mostly thawed, about 30 minutes (another good time to stir the granita!). Transfer vegetables and all their juices from the pan to bowl with soaked bread.
Working in batches as necessary, blend vegetables, juice, and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and sherry vinegar into blender as it blends. Strain soup through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Gazpacho can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
By now, the soup is done and your granita is workin' on becoming icy (keep stirring it every so often!). The only part left is the most delicious - basil oil! Using your blender once again, blend the basil & oil until it's pesto-ey. Pour into a small saucepan and let it infuse over very low heat for 30-40 minutes. Using a very fine mesh filter, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter, strain basil out and reserve oil.
If you'd like croutons, crumble the bread crust you reserved earlier and fry over medium heat in basil oil until golden.
To serve, use a fork to loosen flakes of the granita and top each bowl with a spoonful. Add a few elegant squirts of the oil and a pinch of the croutons. Enjoy right away, before the ice melts and summer is over!