Grape Chowder

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It is gazpacho season. Don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but very few dishes as simple as ‘buy vegetables, blend and chill’ inspire such strong, bossy preferences as this iconic cold soup. (We give props to the oil-laden, paprika-orange smoothie variety over the chunky salsa in a bowl steeze, but hey, that’s just us.)
In fact there are many ways to chill a soup. But it turns out, there was also a FIRST way. The first gazpacho on record was a white soup brought to Andalucia by the Moors, before tomatoes were cool (i.e. before the euros had any idea they existed). It was a simple recipe that made use of leftovers, the Dark Age-Mediterranean version of Satines and Trader Joe’s hummus: crusty bread stubs, grapes and almonds. We were a little skeptical at first of that combo, but wanted to do something edgy for a chilled soup course at a couple recent catering gigs, so we gave it a whirl. Besides making a batch with too much raw garlic, and learning that the stuff thickens overnight, we quickly seized on what we like and stuck to the basics, adding only cucumber.
As for garnish, a simple grape or almond with a swirl of extra olive oil keeps it vegan and does the soup justice. But for full-on indulgence, we have added a single crouton topped with Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. So many ways!
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Gazpacho Blanco

(Makes 8 servings)

2 thick slices crusty french bread
2 medium-sized cucumbers
1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup water
1 cup green grapes
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. In a shallow bowl, place your crusty bread and cover with tap water. Let sit on the counter.
2. Prepare your cukes: peel them well, removing all green so as not to color the soup, slice in half lengthwise and remove seeds by gently scraping the middle out with a downturned spoon. Chop into manageable 2-inch chunks.
3. In a blender or food processor, start combining the ingredients with the almonds first. Use blanched (with their skins removed) almonds if possible. If not, buy regular, raw almonds and blanch them yourself by bringing 2 cups water to a boil and cover the almonds for 3-4 minutes, before rinsing with cool water and popping each almonds’ skin off, its quick and easy.
4. Next drain the now-soggy bread of its leftover water and toss in the 2 slices. Add an extra 1/2 cup water. (This allows you to control water amount more evenly) plus the cucumber, green grapes and lemon juice. Add garlic. Start pureeing on a medium setting.
5. Once mixture is thoroughly moving, start adding olive oil in a slow drizzle. Keep processing for several minutes. Add salt to taste in between pulsing.
6. Pour into a large tupperware or bowl and chill for at least 2 hours. (Its better overnight). After chilling, the soup should condense a little. Simply add another 1/4 cup water and blend before serving if necessary. Garnish for a single half grape slice or crouton.
Beverage: Uncommon Brewing’s Siamese Twin
Soundtrack: Darker My Love’s “White Composition”

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5 Responses to Grape Chowder

  1. Claire Evans says:

    Unreal! I always thought the apogee of bread-soup pairing was the humble bread bowl. I am schooled.

  2. yutastic says:

    this looks insanely good. i can’t even begin to imagine what it tastes like. i may have to make this. i’m lying but it could happen.

  3. lo says:

    NICE.
    I’m loving this unique take on the classic. Srsly.

  4. reverto says:

    Made the Gazpacho Blanco last night. It was outrageously good, and tasted an awful lot like tomato-based gazpacho, oddly enough.
    One note is that I only used 1/4 cup of olive oil — not on purpose, I just ran out. The consistency was a little thin, but for those seeking a lower fat version, the taste was still fantastic.
    Thanks!

  5. Emily K. says:

    made this tonight as an opener for serious tacos. a lovely 1st course, sure to astound and slightly confuse even the most sophisticated of palettes. bravo, gentlemen!

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