I’m going to an election party tonight at an American friend’s house and am struggling with what to bring. It’s a challenge to find an election-themed dish. Neither candidate has talked about their food preferences much, with the exception of Hillary's statement ages ago that she could have "stayed home and baked cookies" but decided to have a career. (I don't hold any grudges, though I believe that women can do either, or both.)
In any case, I wanted to do a dish with tomatoes, because they’ve finally reappeared at the farmers' markets all over Havana after many months. I found inspiration while digging through my very messy recipe drawer and uncovered a recipe for “Gazpacho Clinton.”
Here in Cuba, we’re ready for the end of the U.S. election, even though here we are not exposed to the obsessive nature of the American media. In Cuba, there’s no such thing as 24-hour news channels (unless you have an illegal satellite dish) and endless media commentary. It’s possibly the only upside of living in a place without the freedom of the press.
But still, the election weighs on all of us, Cuban or American. Cubans are interested in the U.S. election, and particularly what it means for Cuba, given that U.S.-Cuban relations are extremely important to people here. Many Cubans have family in the United States and many would like the opportunity to visit or live in America. Many Cubans are hoping that the increasing tide of American tourists will help the economy here.
I saw first-hand just how important the U.S. is to Cuba when President Obama visited in March. I was moved by the outpouring of heartfelt emotion for our president. Cubans stood on the streets watching the motorcade go by, waved American flags, and cried while watching his speech on television. They are sad to see that his term does not last forever (unlike the leaders in Cuba). In his place, they’re hoping for Hillary because they hope she’ll continue his same policies, even as many Cuban-Americans are against her, as I reported here. Cubans in Cuba want more of the same, if that means warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
So I'm going to the election party tonight with Gazpacho Clinton, though I'm altering the recipe to make it a more sociable dish by turning it into cocktail, a Spanish-Cuban Bloody Mary. Goodness knows we'll need plenty of drinks tonight, whichever way the election goes.
Gazpacho is actually a fairly common dish at Cuban paladares (restaurants), an illustration of the long historic links between Cuba and Spain. I first tasted this particular gazpacho at one of Jose Andres' restaurants in Washington D.C. years ago. Jose is a Spanish chef with a restaurant empire across the United States, and he happened to come down to Cuba with President Obama in March. (He and I have worked together in the past, because of his interest in Chinese cooking.) During a visit to one of his restaurants year ago, I tried a dish called Gazpacho Clinton and found it to be the most delicious gazpacho I’d ever tried. I asked for a copy of the recipe and his chefs obliged. According to Jose, he adapted the recipe from one that was served in the White House when Bill Clinton was in office.
Here’s hoping for a return of the gazpacho to that same address.
Gazpacho Clinton Cocktail
Adapted from Jose Andres
For the Gazpacho
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes), roughly chopped
1 cup water
3 ounces yellow or Vidalia onion, chopped
1/4 medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
For the Cocktail
4 oz. vodka
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 mint sprigs
For the Gazpacho
Place the first seven ingredients of the gazpacho in the blender and blend on medium, then high, until it is very smooth. Place a pasta colander over a large bowl and pour the mixture through a colander. Keep the liquid and discard the rest. Add a pinch of salt to the liquid and mix. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve in glasses or bowls.
For the Cocktail
In a glass, pour in 1 ounce of vodka, 6 oz of the gazpacho. Drizzle the cocktail with 1/2 tablespoon of virgin olive oil and a sprig of mint and serve immediately.