As we often note in the blog, this time of year the garden dictates much of what we cook. Happily, we have ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in the garden. And it’s hot, so we don’t want to spend too much time at the stove. So not surprisingly, we make gazpacho, the famous cold vegetable soup of Spain. But what may surprise is that we have mixed feelings on gazpacho. Carolyn loves almost any good gazpacho, but my feelings are sometimes mixed (I think the flavor is sometimes garlicky or muddy and the texture too chunky). But this recipe changes that, we both love this version of gazpacho.
Our recipe is adapted from Saveur, like most gazpacho recipes it includes ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion, garlic, bread, sherry vinegar, oil, water and salt (we also like a touch of smoked paprika). But unlike most recipes, it focuses on the tomato and cucumber, lightens the garlic and uses the onions and peppers for garnish. The recipe also calls for the gazpacho to be pureed in the food processor and then passed through a coarse sieve. While this is just a bit of extra work, what you get is a light, smooth gazpacho with very clean and bright tomato flavor. As a garnish, the peppers and onions add crunch and bright flavors, but without dominating. We think it looks good, too.
And when the tomatoes are super-ripe and sweet, this dish really sings. As our friend, chef and Spanish food aficionado Chad says, “gazpacho is great when you need the vinegar to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes, instead of looking for sweetness to offset the vinegar”. We think Chad has it right. And one of the best things about this dish is that you can follow the base recipe and add vinegar, salt and smoked paprika to balance the flavors. And since there is just a touch of garlic in this version of the dish, you can actually enjoy the sweet tomatoes.
As for serving this gazpacho, you have a few options. We like to serve gazpacho as a starter in small cups or cocktail glasses or as a larger dish in bowls. You have many options for ganishes beyond the basic recipe: croutons, chopped veggies, coarse salt and chopped nuts all work. Even a bit of cured ham or cheese will work. As we noted earlier, we particularly like a pinch of smoked paprika both in the gazpacho and as a garnish.
Finally, as many of you know, we like our cocktails. With such a smooth, attractive, tomato-based soup you might expect a Bloody Mary variant, and we did try it. And if you combine 1.5 oz. of vodka with 2-3 oz. of the gazpacho and a dash of hot sauce (or even some horseradish) with a lot of ice, you get a pretty decent drink. But what’s better is serving a shot of the gazpacho that includes just a touch of vodka- it is a lovely way to start a meal. But even without the booze, this is a very tasty dish. If you have the veggies, this is a recipe worth making.
(Adapted from Saveur)
Notes Before You Start:
- Ripe tomatoes are key for a good dish, super-ripe tomatoes are even better.
- Sherry vinegar is the best fit for this dish, but cider vinegar is a good substitute.
What You Get: A lighter, brighter version of gazpacho.
What You Need: A food processor or a quality blender. A mesh sieve or strainer.
How Long? About 20 minutes to assemble, but at least 2 extra hours to chill the soup. With planning, an anytime dish, but probably best on weekends.
(Makes about 4 cups)
- 1 slice country-style bread, about 1″ thick, crusts removed
- 2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 2 small (or 1 medium) cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- ½ cup good olive oil
- 1 cup water, chilled
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- Finely chopped bell pepper and/or onion for garnish (optional)
- Cut the crust from the bread and soak in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. After 3o minutes, remove the bread and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, peel, seed and chop the cucumbers. Core the tomatoes then slice in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Then coarsely chop the tomatoes. Peel and chop the garlic.
- In the bowl of a food processor combine the chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and garlic with the bread, olive oil, sherry vinegar and water. Puree’ in the food processor until very smooth. Push the gazpacho with a wooden spoon or ladle through a coarse sieve or strainer and into a large bowl. The texture will be somewhat thin. Taste and season with salt. Add smoked paprika if you like. Place the gazpacho in the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile assemble any garnish you like for the gazpacho. When fully chilled, remove the gazpacho from the fridge and taste again for salt and vinegar. Season the taste, garnish and serve.
- New Orleans Gazpacho: Try this version I call Cajun Gazpacho (notesonneworleans.net)
- Andalusian Gazpacho Soup (saltandserenity.com)
- Gazpacho (andreasgardencooking.com)
- Summer Gazpacho Recipe for Boston Globe (latartinegourmande.com)
- Gazpacho: An Ode To Summer (enjoythisorganiclife.wordpress.com)