For this week’s issue, chef Forrest Parker wrote about the history of gazpacho and its ties to the Lowcountry. Parker, who leads food history tour Undiscovered Charleston, admits that once he becomes intrigued by an idea, he cannot easily let it go.
Parker writes, “I’ve been thinking … of gazpacho in particular since it got so hot so quickly this year. I was wondering if gazpacho would have been served at the original Santa Elena, and if it was, what it would have looked and tasted like. In food history terms, turns out gazpacho is old. Very old. It predates the Reconquista of Ferdinand and Isabella (hello, Columbus) and goes back as far as the Roman Empire, possibly further.”
On his tours this summer, Parker served a very specific gazpacho, following a 16th century Santa Elena recipe. The chef did not randomly land on Santa Elena — he is intrigued by the settlement because more than 100 years before the founding of Charlestowne Colony, the Spanish arrived and settled Santa Elena on what is today Parris Island, S.C. Santa Elena was originally intended to be the capital for all of Spanish La Florida and Parker asks, ‘what if they never left?’ What would our culinary scene and history look like?
While you ponder this twist of fate, Parker’s shared his gazpacho recipe with us so that you can harvest your end-of-summer garden globes and turn them into a refreshing bowl of cold soup. Check it out:
1566 Santa Elena Gazpacho
2 large tomatoes
1 sweet pepper
Spanish smoked paprika
Marinated hearts of Palmetto
Herbs — parley, chives, basil, or cilantro
1. Cut top and bottom ends of marinated vegetables, reserving trimmings separately
2. Cut a lengthwise slit in tomatoes and pepper, laying them on cutting board. Filet them in a barrel-roll motion. Reserve seeds and pith
3. Pell cucumber and cut the flesh, avoiding the seeds, into quarters lengthwise. Reserve peel and seed core
4. Finely diced vegetables then season with salt, pepper, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and hot sauce. Chill.
5. For the broth, add veggie scraps, two cups of water, several dashes of sherry vinegar, and one tsp. of sea salt to blender. Puree to smoothie consistency. Strain through fine mesh trainer or coffee filter.
6. Serve the marinated vegetables in soup bowl, garnish with marinated hearts of palmetto and pinch of Spanish paprika and herbs.
7. Pour the strained broth table side for dramatic flair.