Here's the gazpacho we made and took to Joanne and Larry's paella party last weekend. It's the first time I've attempted any of the recipes from The French Laundry Cookbook. This is a good one to start with. It's easy to put together and the secret to its powerful flavor is "overnight maceration." You put all the ingredients in a container in the fridge and then purée the next day before serving.
You could serve this with or without the balsamic glaze or syrup, but I highly recommend it. The recipe for that follows. You just reduce the balsamic slowly until it thickens considerably. The taste contrast it offers really highlights the freshness and sweetness of the veggies in the gazpacho.
This is a recipe I'll make over and over in the summer. You could also strain it and make one heckuva bloody mary with it. It went really well as a starter for the paella.
Notes: The original recipe calls for green bell peppers and red onions. I have a very strong dislike for red onions. I find them overpowering. So I used a sweet onion (Vidalias or Texas 1015s would work) instead. Also, I happened to have a bunch of sweet Russian red peppers from the farmers' market so I used those with a red bell pepper. I doubled this recipe to make sure we'd have enough for the party. I ended up with leftovers but was pretty happy about that. We left some with Joanne and Larry and brought a bit home to have another shot of it the next day. The recipe states that it makes 2 quarts as prepared with the quantities below. But I doubled it and only got 3 quarts. So keep that in mind. The balsamic glaze will make more than you need, but it's really tasty stuff. Use it on berries or pears with cheese as a savory dessert.
French Laundry Gazpacho
1 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 cup English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 cup tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
3 cups tomato juice
1 sprig of fresh thyme
balsamic glaze (recipe follows)
Mix all ingredients (except balsamic glaze) together in a large container with a cover. Refrigerate overnight with the cover on.
The next day, remove the sprig of thyme and purée until smooth. (I used an immersion blender.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve in small cups with a drizzle of balsamic glaze on top.
Balsamic Vinegar Glaze
2 cups balsamic vinegar
Heat in a heavy saucepan on medium heat until you see steam rising. If you have a heat diffuser, place that over the flame and lower the heat as low as it will go. You want it below a simmer. (I don't have a heat diffuser, but do have a burner that goes superlow.) The book says it should take 2-3 hours to reduce down to about 1/2 cup. It took longer for me (3-4 hours), but it does continue to thicken as it cools.
Place cooled glaze into a squeeze bottle for serving. (You can put the squeeze bottle in warm water if it's too thick to squeeze out.)
Recipes adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook.
Want to know about the experience of cooking from The French Laundry Cookbook? Check out The French Laundry at Home blog. She cooks her way through the book and tells you about it along the way.
Want to check out The French Laundry yourself in Yountville, CA? This is arguably the best restaurant in this country. Reservations are taken 2 monthes in advance. Good luck.