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Spanish Flavors!

July 7, 2011
By:  Maria
Growing up in Spain, I was exposed to incredibly fresh foods and flavors. Meals were more about socializing and less about eating large amounts, fast! It was not uncommon for a meal to last a few hours. Lot’s of talking and socializing with stints of nibbling and sipping in between all the great conversations and debates!

One item I remember was Gazpacho – a chilled, tomato-based soup, served as an appetizer, that was delicious on a warm summer day.  My abuela made the best Gazpacho soup and although sadly, I do not have the original recipe, I have learned to experiment, fail and succeed when making different versions of Gazpacho soup – some were sweet, some spicy, some thick and chunky and others smooth as broth. The common denominator with any variety of Gazpacho, however, is the use of the absolute freshest ingredients possible.

Try your hand at this recipe or, as I always suggest, get a little creative with additions of different ingredients that will satisfy your palate.

The measurements I give are a complete estimation because:

1. I like measuring with my hands and palms rather than cups and teaspoons
2. If you use the same exact measurements each time, you will never know whether a dish can taste even better!

2 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (if you can get these at the farmer’s market – do it!)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (I love color, so I use the brightest!)
1 large chopped seedless cucumber
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (fresh is a MUST)
2 tablespoons fresh basil (another MUST)
A bunch of cilantro
5 cloves garlic
1/2 large red onion
2 hard boiled eggs
Juice from half a lemon
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar to taste (or any other vinegar of choice)
Hot sauce (optional)
Avocado slices (optional – but why omit??)

Throw everything (except hard boiled eggs) in a food processor or a blender and blend. As the mixture is blending, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, vinegar, and hot sauce, stopping every few seconds to taste. Once you’re done, let it chill for a few hours before serving. I always make this dish a day ahead in order to allow the truest flavors of Gazpacho to emerge. However, you might like the more subtle flavors of the fresh Gazpacho right after it’s blended. Try both! I will always serve this soup topped with hard boiled eggs and avocado slices, alongside a plate of freshly grilled or sauteed shrimp.

Buen apetito!

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