August 11, 2012

Gazpacho with Sauteed Red Onion

I have been feeling uninspired in the kitchen this summer. Recently, I realized it was because for several months I had strayed away from my dinner mainstay: the caramelized onion. A miracle of modern cooking that, in my personal opinion, makes most savory foods better. They are sweet, but hardy, and stand up well to a variety of flavor combinations and to the addition of spice.

Needing to throw together a weeknight meal for some last-minute dinner guests, I turned to the caramelized onion (well, not quite caramelized, but well-sauteed) to add some depth to gazpacho that I would be making with, gasp, canned tomatoes.

Turns out, actually, that any snobbery I had about the canned tomato was misplaced. They make an excellent gazpacho, particularly when you don't have enough time to really let the soup sit. With the onions, the soup had a surprising depth of flavor. The saute is also a good short cut. Usually the acidity in the tomato sauce helps break down whatever it is about onions and garlic that is hard to eat raw (how's this for some hack kitchen science--I'm making it up as a I go along). Without the raw onions, the soup doesn't need to sit for several hours before serving.

I served it on top of a hefty scoop of quinoa, which made the meal complete, and added an extra nuttiness to the soup. It also obviated the need for bread--the loaf I ran out for at the last minute for languished in the corner of the table almost untouched. Gazpacho is perfect in this I-couldn't-possibly-stand-over-a-hot-stove kind of weather (of course, I did anyway for the onions and the quinoa, but what's a little sweat for a delicious meal!).

This is also one of those dishes that is endlessly customizable. You can use whatever veggies you have in the house. I happened to have radishes and an excess of scallions and cucumbers. But you could also use peppers or zucchini (roasted might be nice). Or all of the above.

- Franklin

Gazpacho with Sauteed Red Onion
Adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook
Total time: 20 minutes prep, one hour chilling
Sweetness Factor: 3; Difficulty Factor: 1; Indulgence Factor: 2; Chance I'll make it Again: 10.

1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves of elephant garlic or 3 cloves regular garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups tomato juice
1 can whole tomatoes (preferably without added seasoning), diced
3 scallions, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon and one lime
3 large radishes, diced
1 large cucumber, peeled (seeded if you prefer) and diced
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of tarragon
1 teaspoon of basil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt, black pepper, and hot sauce to taste

Put the onion and garlic in a large sauce pan on low heat. Cover and let cook until the onions start to wilt. Add the oil. Cook, on low, stirring occasionally, another twenty minutes or so, until the onions are as soft as you want them.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Stir. At this point, you could puree some or all of the soup, depending on your preference. Chill until cold. About an hour. The longer it sits the better it will taste, but an hour is definitely sufficient for this soup.

Serve over quinoa, if this is the main course, or with a slice of bread, if this is an appetizer. Garnish, if desired, with chopped parsley.