There is no traditional dish called Moroccan gazpacho.
I just want to be clear about that up front.
I made it up.
I wasn’t the first person to make it up, apparently, but rest assured that any version of this soup you run across is not authentically Moroccan.
It may be gazpacho, but it sure isn’t Moroccan.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s just talk about how this recipe came to be.
We needed a lunch special at Salaam.
And there were large fresh local tomatoes, lots of basil, red onions, garlic, green and red peppers, cucumbers and lemons newly preserved with salt in the Moroccan style.
Oh, and we had stale pita bread, olive oil, harissa, red chili pepper, cumin and cinnamon.
I wondered what gazpacho would taste like if I made it with preserved lemons and Moroccan spices.
So, I decided to find out.
It turns out that preserved lemons, harissa, cumin and cinnamon take the ubiquitous chilled Spanish soup and make it taste fresh and new, which is, as Martha Stewart would say, “a good thing.”
Generally speaking there are two general textures for gazpacho–blended smooth or chunky with diced ingredients.
I make mine so it is half blended and half chunky, which gives the best of both worlds. The liquid is thick and smooth, with finely diced vegetables throughout. To make the smooth liquid, I puree the bread with olive oil, a cucumber and garlic. (If you are gluten intolerant, leave out the bread, although your gazpacho will lack a certain body and creaminess that the bread imparts.) Most recipes at this point add water to thin out the liquid, but I always use V-8 juice, which coincidentally, we keep in Salaam’s pantry.
I find that using the vegetable juice blend gives a more complex flavor than just using water would do.
Then, I dice up tomatoes, onions, peppers and seeded cucumbers, add salt and pepper, and whatever herbs I have on hand, and voila–gazpacho.
For the ersatz-Moroccan version, I pureed a whole preserved lemon, a tablespoon or two of harissa sauce and a bunch of cilantro with the bread, olive oil, cucumber and garlic, and then added to the diced ingredients toasted, ground cumin, some cinnamon and a lot of fresh basil, roughly chopped.
It turned out beautifully, and nearly sold out at lunch, which is always a good sign.
I loved the complex fragrance, flavors, the textures and especially the summery bright calico colors of this soup and I will be making it again and again this summer.
1 piece pita bread
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 preserved lemon
1-2 tablespoons harissa sauce–to taste
1 bunch cilantro. stems removed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 cups V-8 juice
5 tomatoes, cored and diced finely
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced finely
1 sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded, finely diced
1 sweet green bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely diced
1 large red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted, cooled and finely ground
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and ground cayenne chili to taste
1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
whole basil leaves for garnish
Puree in a blender or food processor, the bread, cucumber, preserved lemon, harissa, cilantro, olive oil, and garlic. Put in serving bowl and whisk in the V-8. Stir in the remaining vegetables, and any of their juices from the cutting board. Add seasonings, and add salt and chili pepper to taste.
Garnish with whole basil leaves.
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