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Strawberry Gazpacho with White As paragus

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Michelin-starred chef Maria Jose San Roman of Monastrell in Alicante, Spain was in Toronto recently for the Campo Viejo Streets of Spain dinner. It was designed to raise awareness of the great food and remarkable wine of Spain. Spanish products are woefully under-represented in Canada, which is sad because they are some of the best in the world. Their olive oil (a particular favourite of mine) is aromatic and rich, their white anchovies are silkily spectacular and their bellota ham has a wonderful nutty taste. Added to my list of Spanish must-haves are smoked paprika and great cheeses such as the ever-popular manchego.

Working with chef Stu Cameron from Toronto's Patria restaurant, Maria produced an authentic and flavourful dinner for Streets of Spain. Her fiery personality comes through in her food and each dish had an interesting storyline. To start, she made this seasonal twist on gazpacho with local strawberries and white asparagus (if the latter is unavailable, use thick stalks of the green variety). Although she cooked her egg yolks sous-vide, I found I could create exactly the same effect by lightly poaching my yolks in water.

Servings: Serves 6

Ready time: 2 hours, including chilling time

Strawberry base

4 cups chopped tomatoes (preferably

fresh but canned will also work)

1½ cups sliced strawberries

½ cup chopped chives

¼ cup chopped cucumber

½ cup water

¼ cup chopped red pepper

1½ tbsp sherry vinegar

¾ tsp salt

Asparagus

¼ cup milk

½ cup water

½ tsp salt

8 oz (250 g) white asparagus, trimmed

Ga zpacho

4 egg yolks

4 cups strawberry base

4 ripe strawberries, sliced

¼ cup torn mint

2 tbsp olive oil

Maldon salt to garnish

Method

To make 4 cups of strawberry base, blend all its ingredients in a food processor. Push through a fine sieve, discarding pulp and seeds. Chill.

To make the asparagus, bring milk, water and salt to a bubbling simmer.

Add asparagus and cook until fork tender (4 to 5 minutes). Drain, rinse in cold water and refrigerate.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a simmer. Reduce heat and wait until bubbles subside. Carefully lower egg yolks into water and cook for 1 minute. Gently remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate and reserve, being careful to keep yolks intact. You can cook yolks one at a time if preferred.

Ladle strawberry mixture into four bowls. Cut off asparagus tips and reserve. Slice asparagus stalks and scatter over soup with strawberries and mint. Stand asparagus tips up in the soup. Drizzle with olive oil, top with an egg yolk and garnish with Maldon salt.

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