Avocado-Cucumber Gazpacho, Two Ways

Avocado-Cucumber-Gazpacho-6Several of the food-related reasons for me to love a good heatwave every once in a while are provided by the unending variety of cold soups, just asking to serve as a refreshing, speed-of-light-quick-fix tummy-filler when it’s too hot for anything else. A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out a way to skip the traditional baguette/chiabatta/toast deal and replace it with something on the healthier side of things without loosing the filling-factor of the soup – after all, I was trying to make dinner, rather than serving a bowl of… well, juice. After a couple of moments, twiddling my mental thumbs, pondering all kinds of gazpachos, juices and green smoothies, it hit me. Avocados! Oh, oh! River crabs go well with avocados! And grapefruit! Apples? <insert visual of mental sock-drawers being turned over here>.

After I almost tripped over myself, trying to get that show on the road I remembered hubby’s waryness of water creatures. Buzz-kill? On the contrary! This gave me the chance to experiment and see which one of my ideas would turn out the best – as you may have gathered from this recipe’s title, both versions worked out wonderfully, a success on all counts! All counts plus one, actually – hubby liked the river crab! Teehee~

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The Gazpacho

2 large Cucumbers, peeled, deseeded, roughly cubed
– Hold back 1 heaped Tbsp of the cucumber and finely cube it for topping #1
1 Lemon, Juice – have a second one at the ready to adjust the seasoning
2 ripe Avocados, skinned, pitted and roughly chopped
– Hold back ½ an avocado and finely cube it for the toppings #1 and #2
1 small Oxheart Tomato, deseeded and roughly cubed
– Hold back 2 Tbsp of the tomato and finely cube them for the toppings #1 and #2

3 Tbsp Buttermilk
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Opt: 1 Jalapeno, deseeded and roughly chopped
Sea Salt, freshly cracked Pepper and died Chilli Flakes to taste

By the way, make sure the avocados are perfectly ripe, the gazpacho might turn grainy or mushy otherwise. I always use black skinned „Hass“ avocados for things like this since they seem to be a lot creamier than the bright green ones – or I’ve just been terribly unlucky with those. If you can’t get ready-to-eat avocados – an avocado is ripe when the skin gives off a faint avocado aroma and gives just a little at a gentle squeeze – here’s two ways to speed up the ripening process:

  • Place it on your windowsill, in a nice and cozy sunbeam and turn it over occasionally. Depending on what you’re starting with, it will be ready in 1-3 days. Just give it a gentle squeeze to check how far it has softened.
  • Place it in a paper baggie in the company of an apple. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which, trapped inside the bag, will speed up the ripening process of the avocado. Hm. So chemistry class at school had some sort of use after all. A decade later.

Just on a side note, once cut, avocados turn brown upon contact with air fairly quickly. A splash of lemon or lime juice prevents that, hence the lemon in the gazpacho. Plus those aromas compliment eachother perfectly in any case.

1) Place the roughly cubed tomato, cucumber, and avocado in the jug of a blender or in a high-rimmed bowl.
2) Add the lemon juice, buttermilk, Worcestershire Sauce, the jalapeno – if you’re using it – and a pinch each of chilli flakes, salt and pepper and blend or stick-whizz the lot until the mixture is silky smooth.
3) Taste your proto-gazpacho and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Careful on the pepper though, the chilli flakes and initial pinch of pepper will develop while the soup is sitting in your fridge for the next hour.
4) On that note, cover the jug or bowl holding the soup with clingfilm and place it in your fridge for at least an hour. Time to get the toppings going.
5) Keep it chilled until serving time, and make sure to give it another taste-and-adjust before plating up. During the time in the fridge it will have thickened up and the flavors will have developed quite a bit.
6) Consistency- and texture-wise you’re looking for something in between a creamy soup and a really smooth purée – blame the avocado for that one, it’s a bit thicker than your average gazpacho. To check if the gazpacho has reached the right consistency, pour a little bit of it into a small bowl. Drag a spoon across the surface or drip a second, smaller amount of the gazpacho into the middle of the bowl. If the spoon/drop impact leaves visible marks on the surface that don’t even themselves out on their own, you’re almost there. Give the bowl a gentle shake – if the surface smoothes over at this point, you’re golden. If the marks remain, stir some addittional buttermilk into the batch in your test-bowl and blend both back into the main crowd.
7) Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper once you’re ready to serve.

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Topping #1 – Avocado & Apple Salad

1 Tbsp Tomato Cubes
1 Tbsp Avocado Cubes
1 heaped Tbsp Cucumber Cubes
1 heaped Tbsp coarsely grated Apple – Breaburn or Granny Smith work beautifully
½ Shallot, finely cubed
3 Basil leaves, finely sliced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Since you’ve done most of the knife-work already, this one is as good as done in a blink of an eye.
1) Place 1 Tbsp each of the cubed veggies you’ve set aside already, avocado, cucumber and tomato, in a mixing bowl.
2) Add the apple, shallot and basil leaves to the mix.
3) Drizzle the lot with the oil, season it with a pinch each of salt and pepper and gently toss the contents of your bowl to evenly distribute the seasoning.
4) Have a taste and adjust your seasoning with salt, pepper and some lemon juice if necessary.
5) Cover the bowl with clingfilm and set it aside until you’re ready to plate up.

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Topping #2 – River Crab & Grapefruit Salad

100g blanched River Crab Meat – make sure it’s not seasoned or marinated. I always buy these at the fishmogers stall at the farmer’s market, but they’re commonly available in well-sorted supermarkets as well.
100g Pink Grapefruit, filleted and cubed
1 Tbsp Natural Yoghurt
Opt: 1 Tsp mild Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Coriander Leaves or Chives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Tomato Cubes
1 Tbsp Avocado Cubes
Sea Salt and freshly cracked black Pepper to taste

Ah, here it goes again, my struggle to put things I do pretty much on auto-pilot into coherent instructions… This time on „Watch Nahdala squirm, fidget and blush internally“: How to fillet a Grapefruit. Or orange. Or lemon. You get the picture.

  • Whet your knife. No matter if the skins of your citrus fruit are thick and rubbery or thin and fragile, you want your knife at its sharpest for a nice and even result. Having massacred and mutilated a couple of innocent oranges myself back in the days, my first order of business now is reaching for my sharpening iron before I approach the fruit.
  • Top and tail the fruit in front of you. Set it upright on one of the cutting surfaces.
  • Place your blade at the rim between the white, inner skin/pith and the fruit itsself and slice the skin away from the fruit in a slow, downward stroke following the shape of the fruit. The first cut is the hardest since you can’t always tell the exact shape of the fruit inside at that point.
  • Once that first slice of skin is off, you can see how to guide the blade on the next stroke. Now you can follow the edge of the previous cut to proceed around the citrus fruit in smaller steps, minimizing the chance to cut away larger bits of the fruit, rather than just getting the skin off, as you go along.
  • Once the skin is off all around, give the fruit a quick once-over and remove any remaining bits of pith still clinging to it.
  • You should be looking at a perfectly clean fruit, the only visible whites being the thin membranes between the segments.
  • Gently hold the fruit in your palm and use those membranes as guides for your next cuts.
  • Pick a segment to start with and place the blade close to the inside of the membrane on its left side. Assuming you’re right handed, that is – start on the right side of the first segment if you’re a leftie, and just switch „left“ and „right“ for the following steps – awkwardly air-slicing an imaginary orange, frowning in concentration, just netted me a rather startled look from hubby’s side of the desk… Moving toward the hand you’re holding your knife in as you proceed cutting out the fillets makes it easier to remove them and set them aside without breaking them up – if everything goes according to plan, the fillet will obediently flop onto your blade after the second cut.
  • Carefully slide the blade toward the center of the fruit, following the inside of the left membrane as closely as possible without cutting into or through it.
  • Repeat the same motion on the inside of the right membrane bordering the segment you’re working on.
  • The juicy wedge of citrus should come loose once you reach the center and place itsself on your blade, ready to be set aside. Sometimes, especially when there’s seeds involved, the center bit can be a little iffy. If you notice the fillet being stuck somewhere, slide the tip of your knife along the edges of the wedge at the core of the fruit to loosen it.
  • Move on to the next segment, the one sitting on the right hand side next to the one you’ve just removed. Again, guide the blade closely along the inside of the membrane holding the segment in place.
  • The first cut will turn the membrane between the segments into a wobbly flap that could get in your way, so flip it over to the left side, like turning the page of a book, and hold it down with the thumb of the hand you’re holding the fruit in. Don’t just cut it off, the flaps will act as a handle to keep the citrus in a firm grip as you go along. The more segments you remove, the more slippery things will get, making it hard to keep a firm grip on the fruit. Considering you’re guiding a sharp knife toward your hand, having a tight hold on whatever you’re cutting, is something to be dearly desired.
  • Once removed, place the fillets on a plate lined with a double layer of paper towels.
  • Repeat these steps until you’ve cut out all of the fillets.
  • One special note on grapefruits: sometimes the membranes come loose pretty much on their own, releasing beautiful segments without much fuss. If that’s the case, pull back the membranes as far as they will go and loosen up the parts of the fillets sticking to the center of the fruit with the tip of your knife to get them out unharmed.
  • There you go, one citrus fruit filleted.

1) Cube and set aside the fillets you’ll need for the topping and feast on the leftovers while nobody’s watching~
2) Blend the yoghurt, mustard and a pinch each of salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a small bowl until they’re well combined.
3) Have a taste with the grapefruit in mind and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
4) Place the crab meat, avocado and tomato cubes in a seperate bowl and gently fold in the herbs.
5) Add the yoghurt dressing and fold in the grapefruit cubes just before serving – until then, keep everything well refrigerated.

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Assembling the Dish

1) Separately place the toppings in deep soup dishes – 4 servings of soup, 2 of each topping.
2) Pour the gazpacho in around the islands and lightly shake the dishes to distibute the soup evenly.
3) Just in case you want to serve these as a main dish, goat’s cheese crostini or slices of garlic bread go nicely with the gazpacho.

Enjoy~!

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