Friday, August 19, 2005

The Soup of Seville -- via Sheboygan!

The Generalife Gardens at the Alhambra Palace near Granada, Spain are a splendid sight. Verdant, lush vegetation covers hillsides and terraced, level areas. In the geometric, structured gardens, archways are covered with roses of many colors. Their exotic scents blend and waft through the air.

Birds flutter overhead, attracted to the beauty, twittering to each other in a flurry of activity. Water, including river and streams and fountains, babbles everywhere. Tourists from around the world smile and murmur in delight.

The Moorish emirs of Granada wanted to recreate the Garden of Eden at this location. They diverted a river to provide water and set in place a garden of visual, olfactory and culinary delights. Generations of visitors have been appreciative of their efforts.

In this corner of Spain, today’s Andalusians continue to recreate the Garden of Eden – in a soup bowl! Gazpacho is Andalusia’s best-known dish and probably originated in a different format (no tomatoes or peppers, which came to Spain after Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” to the “New World”) during the time when Spain was part of the Islamic world in the Middle Ages.

Today, the most-familiar versions of gazpacho are probably those from Seville and Cordoba. However, most cities and towns throughout southern Spain’s Andalusian region have their own, slightly-different versions. The common, distinctive ingredient among all the versions was, and is, bread. Originally, like so many wonderful dishes, gazpacho was peasant food. It was eaten by workers in the fields: vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields and cork (tree) farms. It was field-travel friendly – and still is today!

Gazpacho was popularized outside of the Andalusian region in the 19th century and finally worked its way to popularity in northern Spain around 1930. It became quite fashionable there and continued its wanderings worldwide as the 20th century progressed. How many of us, after visiting Andalusia, return home with visions of hillsides in our hearts and yearnings for gazpacho in our taste buds? The Ingredient Sleuth, for one.

The following “gazpacho interlude” comes from the wonderful, new book BIRO: EUROPEAN-INSPIRED CUISINE by Marcel Biro and Shannon Kring Biro (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2005):

"Marcel Biró’s Gazpacho

Originally a laborers’ dish, Gazpacho was the standard fare of Andalusian muleteers who carried it in earthen pots on their travels. Today the soup contains vegetables and differs from city to city within Andalusia—each version claiming to be the original. Arguably, the first recipe came from Córdoba and consisted of bread, garlic, olive oil, and water. Today Córdoban Gazpacho is thickened with cream and cornmeal. In Jerez it is garnished with raw onion rings, and in Malaga it is made with veal bouillon and sometimes garnished with grapes and almonds. In Cadiz Gazpacho is served hot in the winter, and in Segovia it is flavored with cumin, basil, and aïoli.
This recipe is inspired by that of Seville, a city that, of course, also lays claim as home of Gazpacho.

Serves 6

1 pound vine ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups tomato juice
½ teaspoon dried leaf marjoram
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Purée all ingredients in a food processor or blender. You may need to process it in two batches. Blend until the soup is the consistency you favor. Some people prefer chunks, others a completely smooth soup. I prefer my Gazpacho somewhere in between: with some bite and the consistency of heavy cream.
2. Pour the soup into a large stainless bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When the soup is well chilled, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Gazpacho is traditionally served with a selection of garnishes including chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped cucumber, chopped onion, chopped green and black olives, and diced green bell pepper. This soup is therefore best served family style, and I prefer to use earthenware dishes, as the recipe was originally prepared in clay bowls.

Quick Tip: Other uses for Gazpacho
I’ve used Gazpacho leftovers as a pizza sauce, a warm pasta sauce, a sauce for a goat cheese tarte flambée, a cold and warm garnish, and even as a cocktail sauce by adding a bit of horseradish. Be inventive with this versatile soup and know that the longer you keep it, the more complex and intense the flavor will become."

*Copyright Note*: Marcel and Shannon Biro specifically authorized this excerpt and recipe reprint, by the Ingredient Sleuth, in this posting.

A huge part of the pleasure of any travel experience is the representative food of the visited location. This book steps right up and puts the know-how to recreate those dishes into the reader’s hands.

For me, this gazpacho is filled with my memories of Andalusia. As I taste the soup's bright, fresh and snappy flavor, I am transported to Alhambran gardens and striking hillsides and flamenco performances with bright, fresh and snappy music – sometimes I even jump up and do a little fancy footwork of my own in celebration!

The book’s recipes are representative of the favorite regions in which Marcel Biro has worked: southern Germany, Alsace, Tuscany and Andalusia. The recipes are meant to take you to – or back to – those wonderful destinations as you cook up the wonderful dishes at home.

As one of the youngest chefs in European history to achieve the title Master Chef de Cuisine, he is acclaimed for winning several coveted European awards, for his accomplishments in Michelin-starred restaurants, and for his dedication to demystifying classic cuisine.

As a European Certified Chef Instructor, Biro has fed those with a hunger for professional culinary knowledge throughout France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Italy and the United States. He has worked at internationally acclaimed restaurants and was personal chef to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Biro is host of the new national PBS (Public Broadcasting System) reality cooking series “The Kitchens of Biro.” He is also chef/owner of Biro Restaurant and Wine Bar and of O – a Biro Restaurant, both in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. In addition, the Biros (Marcel and Shannon) offer a bonanza of culinary events and activities (see for culinary enthusiasts. Trips to Europe, cooking classes, entrepreneurial consultation and more are available.

Mr. Biro came to appreciate the value – the precious nature – of good ingredients at a young age, in East Germany. He has based his career on bringing wonderful, healthful ingredients to new heights in dishes that will be available to all. What really warms the heart of the Ingredient Sleuth is the following sentence from the book’s introduction (reprinted with permission) as Biro says:

“Whether you prepare the recipes as outlined or put your own unique spin on them – which I encourage – I hope that you take a moment to really touch the ingredients, to inhale their wondrous scent, and to appreciate their beauty. In my life and career, I have come to fully comprehend the value of freedom and the great privilege I have to work with food. For me, it is an honor never to be taken for granted.”


kristi said...

I was just thinking about gazpacho! It is so hot and sticky here in Georgia and we were talking about going out to eat this weekend and having something cool -- like gazpacho! Maybe we will stay IN with the air conditioner and make our own. The recipe sounds wonderful and I love the sound of the book too.


P.S. Our favorite garnish on top of gazpacho is roasted corn kernels -- kind of a U.S.-Spanish fusion, I suppose!

Dennis said...

We ate at the Biro's restaurant on our last anniversary. The meal was outstanding and the service was incredible. We felt as if we were in a posh European restaurant. We know that the menu changes but we are hoping that when we go again we can have the same thing we did last time!! Even tho we'd love to try something new. Anyway, we feel lucky to live in Milwaukee and be able to head up the expressway to Sheboygan! My wife says to say: "Bravo!"

Lois said...

This soup sounds so good ... I'll get the ingredients tomorrow and try it out on my friends on Sunday ... it will be perfect for our picnic potluck brunch! They are all interested in new cook books too ... this one sounds like just what we would like because we all enjoy travel. Many thanks,


Anonymous said...

I love Andalucia and gazpacho too and knew that there was a difference in it from town to town. This information fills in the blanks about it and is so interesting.

Pam said...

Wow! This sounds lovely. I had no idea this fabulous chef was right here in WI! I looked at the menu at the Biro website and it made me drool .... looks like we'll have to go there soon! Thanks for the info.

marc&terri said...

Gazpacho is one of our favorite foods to make us feel like we are back in Europe. We had a couple of different kinds of it in Spain and liked all of them very much.

Anonymous said...

This brings back many happy memories of Spain.

carolyn said...

This recipe is perfect for the big harvest tomatoes and peppers in my garden. The added ideas to use gazpacho leftovers are especially wise -- I think I'll like this cookbook!

Anonymous said...

I loved your description of the Alhambra. It is such a beautiful place and this info adds to my memories of it. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Door County (Wisconsin) - This story that features the Biro restaurant is so good. We have eaten there a couple of times and highly recommend it. It is excellent.