Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summertime Gazpacho and the Brain of J

(Note: Lately, I’ve noticed that my writing tends to mirror whatever book I’m reading at the time. When it’s Philip Roth, the sentences are much longer, with occasional nods to Judaism in 1950’s New Jersey. When it’s Jennifer Weiner, there’s a lot of dialogue and inevitably a crack or two about my ever-expanding booty. Right now, I’m knee-deep in John Irving’s The World According to Garp, so I apologize in advance for matter-of-fact whimsy and hooker references.)

For the last three years, my sister from another mother Rachel (seen on this site many times) has been dating J, a 30-something media dude and comedian. They’re wonderful for each other, not least because he's hilarious, kind, and totally frigging brilliant. To wit: he’s the best-read person I’ve ever met. He speaks Esperanto. His music knowledge rivals that of Matt Pinfield and Robert Christgau put together. He solves crossword puzzles faster than most people can say the words “crossword puzzles.” He’s a walking Wikipedia – the guy you go to when you need to know something NOW, and don’t have access to a computer. I think he’s in Mensa, and if he’s not, he should be. He could run their meetings.

J’s blanketed the U.S., trekked across Europe, and made his home for years in Japan. In 2006, he patiently guided a group of us through London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin while we were jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, and absolutely clueless as to whether or not we should tip the bartenders. (Answer: no.) He runs. He writes. He does graphic design in his spare time. He is an expert at Guitar Hero and Vonnegut alike. In sum, J’s up for whatever challenge that great softball pitcher called Life chucks at him.


J does not cook.

Living with Rach, he doesn’t really have to. Many a time I’ve visited their apartment (my old one), and smelled her delectable offerings wafting up and down the three-story stairwell. It’s all I can do not to eat the door, and frankly, I’m surprised J isn’t 1400 pounds by now.

So, this past weekend, when he prepped Summertime Gazpacho for our super-modest Day of Indeporkdence barbecue, I was way proud. (In a fun “WOOO this rules” way, not in a condescending “Oh, men are so CUTE” way.) The chilled, chunky, tomato-y soup was just the right topper after a long day of meat, more meat, and meat with meat on top. I unabashedly loved it, and best of all, it’s very light (but still filling) for a soup of its kind.

Of his creation, J says:

“This combines two different Moosewood recipes. It's mostly the chunky gazpacho from Sundays at the Moosewood, which I have made before and loved (basically, an avocado and cucumber delivery device), but I saw another recipe from one of Molly Katzen's original Moosewood cookbooks and decided to add some of the more sophisticated flavorings and extra vegetables from that recipe. I made a double batch, and was very pleased with the result. Most important: no cooking!”

In sum, if you should ever see J on the street, give him a pat on the back for the gazpacho. Then, hand him your hardest Sudoku. If he doesn't finish it inside a minute, the soup's on me.

J and Moosewood's Summertime Gazpacho
Makes 6-8 servings
Adapted from Moosewood cookbooks.

2 cups corn, fresh or frozen (I used frozen this time. – J)
4 cups tomato juice
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed (More like cubed in their skins and scooped out. – J)
4 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground (toasted) cumin
1/4 teaspoons cayenne
salt to taste
1 bell pepper, minced (I used red. – J)
1 teaspoon honey
4 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon tarragon (or 1 T. fresh chopped tarragon - J)
1 teaspoon basil (or 1 T. fresh chopped basil - J)

1) Combine everything in a big bowl. Put in fridge to chill. Serve cold.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
176 calories, 9 g fat, $1.38

2 cups corn, fresh or frozen: 305 calories, 2.4 g fat, $0.69
4 cups tomato juice: 165 calories, 0.5 g fat, $1.25
1 cucumber: 24 calories, 0.3 g fat, $0.66
2 ripe avocados: 643 calories, 58.9 g fat, $4.00
4 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice: 19 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.33
1 large garlic clove, minced: 4 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
1 1/2 teaspoon ground (toasted) cumin: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 teaspoon cayenne: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
salt to taste: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1 bell pepper, minced: 31 calories, 0.4 g fat, $1.72
1 teaspoon honey: 21 calories, 0 g fat, $0.03
4 scallions, minced: 19 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.38
1 teaspoon tarragon (or 1 T. fresh): 2 calories, 0 g fat, $0.50
1 teaspoon basil (or 1 T. fresh): 2 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
TOTAL: 1235 calories, 62.7 g fat, $9.64
PER SERVING (TOTAL/7): 176 calories, 9 g fat, $1.38


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