I don’t think anyone needs me to give them yet another recipe for gazpacho. It’s so simple you pretty much can’t go wrong and the basic recipe is flexible enough that you can take some liberties with ingredients and preparation. Bread or no bread; seeded tomatoes or seed-ful tomatoes; red, white or green onion – the choice is yours. The only two essentials: fresh ingredients and chill before serving.
As with other Spanish cold soups such as white garlic and salmorejo, gazpacho is such a classic and good as it is. There’s not much I could do to put a twist on it and make it my own. But one thing I can do without inciting a riot is play around with the garnishes.
So last week I was watching Masterchef Canada, as I do every Monday as soon as I can get it on streaming, and was amazed to see a competitor make caviar from balsamic vinegar. Like most things that I see on tv, I had to try it right away.
A little bit of googling led me to this instructional video demonstrating how super easy it is to make balsamic caviar. Finally, I have something interesting and unique to put my twist on gazpacho!
To make balsamic caviar all you need is three things: balsamic vinegar, agar agar and oil. If you use agar agar powder, you can simply dissolve it into the vinegar.
If, like me, you use agar agar strings/threads, then dissolve it first in boiling water before mixing it though warmed vinegar. I strongly recommend using agar strings because they’re about one seventh the price of powder.
Now you need something to make drops. I went to the dollar store and found a pastry syringe, but any kind of squeeze bottle with a small tip will work. It took a bit of practice to get a good dropping technique, but I eventually realized that it’s better to go slow.
One drop will make the tiny caviar-sized balls you see in the pictures. Three drops in the same place (quickly before the ball sinks into the oil) will make a pearl-sized ball.
You can also make caviar or pearls out of other water-based liquids (olive oil caviar doesn’t work – trust me, I tried). I have also made white wine pearls, which have yet to find a use, or you can try using juice or sauce. This balsamic caviar is not only good on gazpacho, but great to top salads, bruschetta phyllo cups or whatever your heart desires!
Gazpacho with Balsamic Caviar
Yield: Serves 6 - 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours25 minutes
Gazpacho is so simple you pretty much can’t go wrong and the basic recipe is flexible enough that you can take some liberties with ingredients and preparation
For the gazpacho
8 ripe tomatoes
Half a medium-sized green pepper, cut into chunks
Half a medium-sized cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
A quarter of a white onion, cut into chunks
Half an apple (golden delicious is good), cut into chunks
1 clove of garlic
1 slice of day-old white bread without the crust
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Water, to taste
basil or chives, to serve
For the balsamic caviar
1.5 grams (0.05 oz) agar agar
100 grams (3.5 oz) balsamic vinegar
2 cups of oil
For the gazpacho
Cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato and plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. Remove the tomatoes from the pot and run them under cold water. Peel off the skin, cut into quarters and scoop out the seeds.
Put the peeled and seeded tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber, onion, apple, garlic and bread into a blender and process until smooth. Now add the olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt. Put it into the fridge for several hours or overnight.
Once chilled, taste and adjust the seasonings. If it’s very thick, you can add a bit of cold water. It’s a soup so you don’t want it the consistency of a sauce, but it does need to be slightly thick so that the caviar sits on top without sinking.
For the balsamic caviar
Put the oil into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour until it is almost to the point of freeing. If it starts to freeze around the edges, give it a stir.
If using agar agar powder, put the balsamic vinegar into a small pot over medium heat and add the agar. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the agar has fully dissolved.
If using agar strings/threads, soak the agar in 1/4 cup of water for 30 minutes and put the vinegar in a small pan. Put the agar and water into a small pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the agar has fully dissolved. When the agar is beginning to dissolve, turn the heat on under the vinegar and bring it to a simmer. Pour the dissolved agar into the heated vinegar, stirring constantly.
Take the vinegar and agar mix off the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes while stirring constantly. When it feels like it’s beginning to thicken, take your oil from the freezer and pour it into a tall glass. Put some vinegar into your dropper or squeeze bottle and start dropping it into your cold oil. Depending on the size of the hole in your bottle, one drop will make caviar-sized balls, 3 drops in the same place will make pearl-sized balls. I recommend working with a small amount of vinegar at a time to develop your technique and putting the remaining vinegar over low heat to prevent it from solidifying while you work.
If your balls are deformed it could be that your vinegar is still too hot or your oil isn’t cold enough. If your vinegar gets sticky before you’re finished, put it back into the pot and warm it slightly.
Strain the caviar from the oil and rinse under cold water.
Serve your chilled gazpacho however you would like and top with a spoonful of balsamic caviar and a small basil leaf or chives.