White Grape Soup (kitchen soup)

Actually, the correct term is Gazpacho Blanco (or in some books Blancho).

As I’ve mentioned a time or two, it’s hot where I live. For example, on this the 24th day of September, it’s 80 degrees F and will probably get up another degree or two before the day is out. I don’t run the air if I can avoid it (it’s off right now). If I’m not running air, guess my opinion of things like ovens and stoves. I tolerate the stove as it cools fast, but the oven… Even so, COOL dishes are a win.

Several so-called cold soups are actually cooked then cooled. This one isn’t. This one also lets me use a truly local ingredient, the muscadine grape.

The Muskie spent a long time being treated as a “second class citizen” of grapes. Winemakers sneered at the idea of using them – they were coarse and badly flavored for making wines, so the story went. Well, turns out they’re not. Turns out you can indeed make award winning wines from them. But the key thing is that the muskie is not only a North American native grape, but it’s predominant here in the south. I’m not a southerner, but this is a point of pride anyway.

Now muskies come in both red and white, and this recipe calls for white. Ummmm, they aren’t really white. When you go to the store and get green grapes? Those are “white” grapes. I’m sure I’ll do a post on this later, but you make white wines from white grapes which have had their skins removed. Red wines are made from red grapes with skins left on. Blushes are made from red wines with skins removed. I’ve always found that mildly interesting. But I digress. Again.

Let’s make this soup, shall we? You’re only going to need two tools: a blender, and a strainer – and you’re only going to need the strainer briefly. sigh – you’re going to need something to catch what you pour through the strainer, too. Maybe a stirring stick of some kind will also help. And eventually a ladle unless you’re pouring the soup, and some eating dishes and utensils. Pedantic philistines (grin).

Start with a pound of muskies (or white grapes of your preference), off the stems. Take a moment to pop out the seeds (if you bought something else, save a little effort and buy seedless). Put them in the blender and pulse a few times to a coarse puree, then pour through the strainer. You’re doing this to catch the skins and any seeds you might have missed. One of the reasons for the bad rep muskies get is that their skins are thicker than most other grapes. (They’re also larger, if that’s any compensation.)

Now it’s fun time. Put the juice and pulp back into the blender. Add about two pounds of cucumber that you’ve peeled. You’re also going to want 2 cups of unflavored yogurt.

This is your base. Blend it together and serve and you’re ok. However, everyone adds a little bit more of this or that to make it ‘theirs’, and I’m no exception.

I like to finely chop a couple of green onions and mince a clove of garlic and add them at this point. I also pure in a mild chili pepper that I’ve seeded and finish with a wee bit of salt and pepper. A lot of recipes use hot sauce instead. I’ve seen suggestions of shallots and/or chives – with and replacing the green onion. One person I knew added a bit of lime juice. The point is you want the majority of the taste to come from the three base ingredients, and the rest adds your special touch (and in most cases a bit of heat).

Heat in a cold soup, that you’re drinking because it’s so stinking hot? Well, yes. Notice where all the “hot” dishes come from. You can categorize them in two groups (which overlap) – poor areas, and hot areas. Heat in the food makes you sweat, evaporating sweat cools you off. As for poor, peppers are an extremely cheap “spice” that just happens to overwhelm the fact you’re using very, very cheap (tough, old, etc) ingredients. As it happens, capsaicin is what I call a catalyst spice. That is, in addition to having its own effect, it strengthens the effect of all the other flavors as it incidentally unlocks the other taste buds. Same goes for salt and cloves. (One of these days I’m going to mess around with a dish spiced with salt, cloves, and peppers. But not today.)

So there it is. No heat in the kitchen, mostly cool on the tongue. The sweet isn’t so overwhelming as to make this a dessert – it works well as a main dish at a light lunch, or the ‘soup’ at a larger meal.

One last note before I go on to a formal recipe. Notice that this uses no broth or stock. It’s one of the rare ones, which is another reason I couldn’t pass putting it up.

Gazpacho Blancho

1 pound white (green) grapes, seeded and stemmed.
2-3 cucumbers, peeled.
2 cups unflavored yogurt.
1 mild chili pepper, seeded and stemmed.
2 green onions, roughly chopped.
1 clove garlic, minced.
salt and pepper to taste.

Pulp grapes. (Run in blender to break, then strain to remove skins.) In blender, combine all ingredients but salt and pepper and puree. Season to taste. Chill if not served immediately. Serves 4 as main dish, 8 as adjunct to meal. (Surprisingly nice garnish – crushed toasted almonds.)

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