Sunday, August 22, 2010

Is It Real Or Is It Memorex? Fresh vs. Canned, Lessons Learned

It is the inching towards the end of summer here in Louisiana and it is damned hot. So hot and humid that it feels as if you’ve been hit in the face with a nasty sweaty sock just off a foot from PE class every time you step through a door outside. What better than a nice cool tangy soup to cool a person off in such an environment? Gazpacho!

Of course the urge to make this hit me late last night, say midnight-ish. I wasn’t going to the store. I had plenty of canned tomatoes and a yellow pepper in the fridge, so I was a good part of the way there. Looking on-line I found a recipe that looked something like this:

2 each 14 ounce cans of diced tomato

1 diced onion

1 diced yellow pepper

Some portion of a diced cucumber.

1 minced clove of garlic

2 cups water

1 jalapeno

Splash of rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

I decided to proceed without the cucumber. I also deviated with the canned tomatoes going with one can diced tomato and another can diced tomato and okra, using plain white vinegar, and using the remainder of a jar of pickled jalapeno slices. I figured the okra would be a decent fit, the other compromises would just have to do.

Plowing ahead all went according to plan. To tell you the truth the best part of this whole thing was the chance the finally use the immersion stick blender I picked up in June. I’ve wanted one for years- they just look like so much fun! And I can now say that they are a blast.

I was disappointed last night when I first tasted the soup. Everything tasted flat. I added more vinegar to brighten things up, then the last of a bottle of Green Tabasco. It was still flat but at least it resembled gazpacho as I remember it. What was the take-a-way from this? Use fresh ingredients. Skimping on ingredients will always compromise a dish. I didn’t want to leave the house and hit a Wal Mart for what I needed and the soup suffered for it. Was it worth it? Yeah. Given 12 hours to come together in the fridge it tastes quite a bit better, but it is still muted. Sometimes you just have to compromise. Sometimes substitutions pull a dish into a whole different and yet exciting direction you might never have imagined. Live and learn. Meh.

If I had planned things out I would have followed a recipe like this one: . Cucumber and perhaps some cilantro would have made the dish brighter and fresher. Don’t worry- the dogs won’t get a bit of this stuff.

Have you ever found yourself mid recipe scrambling to find a substitute for something? How did it work out?