Hola! and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’! We’re discussing “Eclectic Houston”, our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.
Our Susitna Cafe’ neighbors in Houston come from all around the world… France, Hong Kong, Cuba, Spain, India, Mexico, Armenia, and Texas A&M (Ha-Ha!). Isn’t that wonderful? Whenever our neighbors warmly welcome us into their home, we learn about the native food and cultural traditions that they brought with them to Houston. We are sooo fortunate!
Recently, our neighbor Rita and Fernando invited us to a party at their lovely home to celebrate Rita’s birthday. Oooohhhh, they are such nice people and they always have a wonderful international smorgasbord. You know, I really like international smorgasbords and birthday parties!
Fernando’s family originates from the Extremadura Region of Spain, an area bordering Portugal in Europe. Rita’s mother’s family is from Ecuador. So, we were delighted to participate in their eclectic Spanish smorgasbord and birthday celebration.
Extremadura, by the way, means “to go to extremes”. This is a Spanish region that is blistering hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The Extremadura landscape consists of lush forests, sweeping plains and ancient hilltop villages. It is an area off the beaten tourist path and a region of Spain where the villages seem frozen in time.
Extremadura is well known for its outstanding gastronomy. Highly prized Iberian pork, for example, originates from Extremadura where the free range pigs feast on acorns which give their meat a unique and highly prized flavor.
Extremadura’s delicious food is based on seasonal availability. It is simple and down to earth thus reflecting its peasant origins. Rita and Fernando’s feast included an Extremadura gazpacho amongst other delightful simple and down to earth Spanish dishes…
various canapes and vegetables…Albondigas Al Zafaron (pork and veal meatballs with saffron)…Potatas Alinadas (Andalusian potato salad), and even a Lithuanian beet soup (borcht)…There was a beautiful Empanada Gallega (Galician cod pie) with a patisserie enscription of Rita’s initials too! Oh my, someone pinch me now!
In addition to the delightful Spanish smorgasbord, we enjoyed some refreshing sangrias poured by Joseph, Rita and Fernando’s son…
Of course, all the guests had a wonderful time eating fresh seasonal food and sipping sangria…
Oh, and let’s not forget about dessert…Maria, Rita and Fernando’s daughter, made some delightful carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…
Lucky for all of us, Rita and Fernando have generously shared their family recipe for Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho with the Susitna Cafe’! This recipe originated with Fernando’s mother, Xela, and it is absolutely wonderful…it’s refreshing and delicious! Thank you Rita, Fernando and Xela from your Susitna Cafe’ friends!
Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho
4 pounds fresh ripened tomatoes, skins removed and cut into chunks
1 cucumber, cut into chunks
2 red or orange bell peppers, cut into chunks
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
3-4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bell pepper (any color), diced
2 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced (I use red onion)
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 boiled eggs, chopped
croutons, 1/3 stale baguette cut into small cubes, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and baked until golden on cookie sheet
To begin, prepare your vegetables and tomatoes. Dip the tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for a few minutes. Allow to cool to touch, then peel and remove the skins.
Next, in a food processor or blender, add a combination of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and garlic with a portion of the olive oil.
Process/blend the vegetables and olive oil until you have a speckled puree.
Pour the speckled puree into a large bowl or non-aluminum pot. Continue to process/blend the vegetables and olive oil in batches pouring into the large bowl or pot when done. Add the sherry vinegar, cumin and salt to the bowl or pot and stir well to incorporate the ingredients and flavors.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible to meld all the flavors. Serve with a platter of garnishes so that your family and guests can add their own to taste.
Cook’s Notes: I reduce the amount of extra virgin olive oil when I make this recipe simply because I prefer a little less oil. Do consider using a colorful confetti mixture of the chopped bell peppers as a nice touch to the garnish platter. If, by chance, your gazpacho is too thick just add some cold water or ice until you have a desired consistency.