Taking up residence in my refrigerator is a cityscape of green jars. There’s the blender jar of cucumber gazpacho. To its left is a small jar of garlic scape oil topped by an even smaller jar of mint oil. To its right, a tall jar of mint- and chive-flecked labne, but that’s another story. The “buildings” are nestled between a garden of pea shoots and tendrils with their young white blossoms and a wild tangle of mâche and arugula destined for a salad.
This shelf reminds me of my freshman year of college. No, I didn’t have a fridge full of greens to fuel my studies. Instead I had a roommate who was going through a preppy stage. In honor of her, my then boyfriend created a game called “J. Crew shades of green.” It consisted of a piece of paper with a column of twenty-five green color swatches (cut from a catalog) arranged from dark to light like a Panetone paint color chart and a column of twenty-five names. There was jade and apple and oasis and gatsby. It was a matching game.
Assembled, the contents of my refrigerator jars transform into a sea of wave crest gazpacho splattered with monterey pine mint oil and cyprus garlic scape oil. And then I got to wondering – what would those colors be in Crayola? How about sheen gazpacho with Christmas mint oil and inchworm scape oil?
The game makes for endless hours of entertainment.
Colors aside, this summer soup came to me in the form of an appetizer a few weeks ago before the best-meal-on the Cape dinner at Ten Tables where it was served over a shock of spiced wine (J. Crew) jazzberry jam (Crayola) beet cubes. At home a few days later with a whir of the blender, a few pulses of the food processor, and some toasting and slicing, I had a very pretty, wave crest-monterey pine-cyprus-tinted Jackson Pollack canvas of my own.
Cucumber mint gazpacho
I used as a starting point another cucumber gazpacho recipe from a few summers ago, and added almonds and mint. Soaked bread thickens the gazpacho and, most importantly, makes it really creamy without any cream (see salmorejo). You might need to make this in two batches, depending on the size of your blender jar. It did fit in my standard Kitchenaid 56 ounce (7 cup) blender. The soup’s flavors intensify with time and I like it best after a night in the fridge. It will thicken up a bit, so be prepared to add a little water before serving. I’ve included the recipes for mint oil and garlic scape oil – the soup is special without them, but even special-er with them and the leftovers will find their way into other dishes for days.
If you want to be trendy, serve the soup in tall shot glasses or tumblers. Or, go old school and use bowls.
Makes 6 cups
– 1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers — about 10 small Persian cucumbers or 2 seedless/English cucumbers
– 1/2 C cold water
– 1 small onion or 1/2 large onion
– 5 garlic scapes (or 2-3 cloves regular garlic)
– 1 T tightly packed mint leaves (about 30)
– 3/4 C almonds (skinned), divided
– 1/4 C olive oil, plus more for drizzling
– 1/4 C red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
– kosher salt
– 1 C stale bread, cut into cubes. I’ve found challah or ciabatta to be best. You can keep on some crust, but not too much or the soup will come out less creamy, more gritty
– Optional: mint oil, garlic scape oil (recipes below)
Puree. Rough chop the cucumber (I keep the skin on) and add to the blender jar with the cold water. Puree until smooth. Rough chop the onion and scapes and add to the blender jar with the mint leaves. Puree again. Then add 1/2 cup of almonds, olive oil, and vinegar, and keep pureeing until the entire mix is smooth.
Soak. Add the bread cubes to your blender and let them soak up the liquid for at least 30 minutes. When they have softened up, puree again until very smooth. Add salt to taste.
Chill. You want to serve this cold, so refrigerate for at least an hour (straight in the blender jar) before serving. The soup will thicken a bit, so you may need to add a little cold water and blend until it’s the consistency you want.
Toast. Toast the almonds until they just start to darken (5 minutes in a 350ºF oven). Let them cool and then pulse in a food processor a few times (or chop by hand). Sprinkle over soup.
Get fancy. Garnish as much as you’d like (see recipes below). Drizzle with olive oil, mint oil, and/or garlic scape oil.
Make sure to use a very mild oil – I use grapeseed oil – so that the flavor of the herbs shines. An olive oil will be too overpowering. The oils can be used immediately, but an overnight stay in the fridge will intensify the flavors. There will be leftovers. The mint oil is great drizzled on salads, asparagus, or a nice steak. I love spooning a little bit of garlic scape oil on an egg in the last minute of frying and then wilting some arugula in the hot pan. I’ve also thrown it over fresh pasta with a little bit of grated parmesan.
Mint oil. In a food processor, puree 1/2 cup packed mint leaves in 1/2 cup grapeseed (or other mild) oil.
Garlic scape oil. In a food processor, puree 15 garlic scapes in 1 cup grapeseed (or other mild) oil.