Occasionally, Bohemian staff are allowed to leave the hellish constancy of our computers, merrily don our media-whore hats, and gallop out into the actual world. Such was the case last week when we were the plus-one guest to a friend attending a luncheon at Chalk Hill Winery as part of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Seated in the impossibly high-ceilinged pavilion room overlooking co-proprietor Peggy Furth's dressage barn, we were treated to a nearly perfect four-course meal by Chalk Hill executive chef Didier Ageorges. The mild summer afternoon meal commenced with simply the best gazpacho this gazpacho-guzzler has ever daintily guzzled. I'd bathe in it. Chef Didier's tip is to use orange cherry tomatoes. Their subtle taste and gorgeous color make this a defining cool soup.
Tomato Gazpacho with Basil Oil
The quality of the tomatoes in gazpacho is of utmost importance. I prepare this soup a day in advance, which gives the flavors much more depth. —Didier Ageorges, executive chef, Chalk Hill Estate
3 pints orange cherry tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. basil leaves
Toss tomatoes with cucumber, red and green pepper, onion, and garlic in a large bowl. Working in batches, purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar. The amounts needed will vary, depending on your tomatoes and your taste.
Refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the gazpacho from the refrigerator 45–60 minutes before serving, so it will be cool but not cold (to avoid the olive oil congealing). Strain the soup and stir in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil for a luxurious texture. The soup may require additional seasoning when chilled, so taste again and add salt, pepper or vinegar as needed, prior to serving.
To make the basil oil: purée basil with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt in the blender.
Serve the soup in chilled bowls drizzled with basil oil.
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