Strawberries, cucumber, cayenne pepper, chives and hot sauce blend into a sweet, tangy, spicy take on classic gazpacho in this quick no-cook first course. Recipe below.
It’s always nice to start a dinner party with an impressive little surprise, especially if it’s simple and can be made ahead of time. Marion takes over the kitchen this week with a lively Strawberry Gazpacho that delivers on all counts.
As you know if you read last week’s post, beautiful fragrant strawberries are starting to appear in the stores, and we are thinking about them a lot. This recipe came together in our heads from a lot of places. The first chives appearing in the backyard; a wonderful, mysteriously flavored gazpacho we had a while back at La Boca, the tapas restaurant in Santa Fe; a dessert soup of strawberries my sister and I once had at Le Petit Lutécia in Paris; and memories of little kid Julys picking wild strawberries in northern Michigan. Of course as kids, we did much more eating than actually picking these tiny, intense strawberry bits.
Although there are many variations on the classic gazpacho recipe, most involve tomatoes and spicy heat and are served chilled. This version swaps strawberries for tomatoes, but sticks with the hot/cold theme.
This recipe depends on high-quality berries that are very fresh, very aromatic and very sweet. If your fruit is pale and bland, the soup will be too. But once you find the right berries, this recipe comes together in just a few minutes. The cucumber, plus the spice of the cayenne and the tang of the hot sauce, turns this from a dessert dish into a tangy, crunchy first course: springtime, with a little bite.
You can fix strawberry gazpacho quickly in the food processor a couple of hours before dinner, or just ahead of lunch. Serve it the same day you make it, to keep it fresh.
Serves 4 (or 8+ as a tapa or as an appetizer course)
12 ounces of cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, then coarsely chopped
3 cups strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 scallion, the root end and any dry tips cut off, then coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon hot sauce (see Kitchen Notes)
1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
chive stalks, cut into three- or four-inch pieces
Once everything has been prepped, put it all in the food processor except the chive stalks. Pulse, making sure not to overprocess—you want a rather coarse texture. Taste to make sure it has the level of spicy heat you like. Once it’s where you want it to be, pour into a bowl and refrigerate until it’s time to serve. Put your serving dishes (small bowls or glasses) into the fridge too.
To serve four, ladle the soup into small, chilled bowls. To serve as part of a tapas meal or as party food, spoon neatly into small glasses—the photo shows this served in a triple shot glass. Cordial glasses or small martini glasses would work too. Garnish by standing one or two chive stalks in the soup (they will start to droop—don’t worry, it’s what they do).
Cold stuff. Keep all the produce in the fridge until you’re ready to prepare it, then work pretty quickly so it stays chilly. Stand the chive stalks with their cut ends in a little glass of water to keep them crisp and straight.
Hot stuff. If you really don’t like spicy food, omit the cayenne and hot sauce entirely (and, in the latter case, add a little more lime juice). But I hope you will try at least a trace of it. The bit of spice and acid really transforms this.
Hotter stuff. In the vast and crazy world of hot sauces, for this dish we prefer sauces that enhance rather than blast, such as the classic Mexican brand Cholula. If your sauce includes such terms as “death” or “XXXXX,” or is named after a demon or a mental illness, it’s probably not the one for this soup.