When temperatures rise, eating light and fresh is the secret to joyful summer dining. Gazpacho (chilled vegetable soup) is a seasonal staple of innumerable restaurants and home kitchens, particularly those in hot Mediterranean and desert climates. Though tomato is usually the predominant flavor, no two gazpachos are exactly alike, largely because each preparation is reliant on the availability of ripe ingredients at the peak of their flavor. As a gazpacho devotee, this has made it frustratingly difficult to recreate my restaurant favorites. Until now.
In my humble opinion, the best gazpacho you’ll ever eat is the refined creation of Yvan Mucharraz, chef of the beach-chic Don Manuel’s Su Cocina — the signature restaurant at the premiere luxury resort Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas in Baja Mexico. Its color is warm and rich like terracotta tiles. Its texture is smooth and creamy — without the use of dairy — with a delightful crunch of teensy-weeny chilled cubes of jicama, cucumber and watermelon. And its taste is a savory revelation. The star of the dish is the Piquillo pepper, a heatless red pepper variety grown in northern Spain where they’re roasted and bottled. The closest relative is the pimento but there is no true flavor substitute, so don’t cheat yourself by using a more common red pepper variety when you replicate it at home. You should also resist the temptation to add chilies for a spicy kick — that will only defeat the purpose.
Gazpacho de Piquillo
By Chef Yvan Mucharraz of Don Manuel’s Su Cocina,
Capella Pedregal Resort Cabo San Lucas
Yields: 10 servings
- 2 cups Piquillo peppers (pre-roasted and bottled)
- 10 tomatoes
- 1 bunch basil
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 cucumber
- 1/2 onion
- 1 cup sherry vinegar
- 4 red bell peppers
- 2 slices white bread
- 2 1/3 cup olive oil
- Ground black pepper
For Garnish: jicama, watermelon and cucumber, or other seasonal produce, cut into tiny cubes and chilled
Roast and peel the red bell pepper. Mix all of the ingredients, except for the white bread, in a container and marinate with the sherry vinegar for 24 hours. Add the white bread and olive oil and purée in blender until smooth with a creamy body. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve slightly chilled. For a slight crunch, garnish with a handful of tiny cubes made from seasonal melon and crisp vegetables.