Here at the halfway point of the season it is all summer. The perfect time, as they say, for gazpacho. This cold soup of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onion and bread is hearty, raw, vegan and delicious.
There are many, many recipes for this traditional dish from Adalusia, Spain. Our most recent try was from Cook's Illustrated's July 2010 edition. A thank you goes out to my brother Bill for the gift of the subscription, and to Rebecca for finding the article.
The CI recipe is a little complicated, but produces a creamy, fine restaurant quality soup. The article focuses on the need to add salt to grocery store tomatoes to release any flavor they may have. You will not have that problem.
Gazpacho was originally a mish mash of leftovers that Spanish field hands ate. After Columbus landed in the Americas, and tomatoes made their way to Europe, they became it's main ingredient.
On the surface, gazpacho is just a big bowl of salsa, containing most all of the same ingredients (except bread and olive oil). So how do you make something that is different than salsa? The way I see it, the difference is in the "broth."
Gazpacho is at it's base a savory cold broth with some chopped vegetables. You can make the broth several ways. One is to use tomato or vegetable juice and olive oil. This is a simple and favorite way for me, as tomato juice is readily available during canning season.
A finer way to do it is to puree some of the vegetables along with bread and olive oil to make an incredibly creamy soup. The recipe below is a simplified version of the CI recipe.
A big advantage of gazpacho is that you don't have to turn on your stove or oven. This not only keeps things cool, but simplifies your efforts. To make things even simpler, you only need a knife, a food processor and one big bowl to complete this recipe.
The porportion of vegetables in this dish is not all that important. Simply use a good quantity of the vegetables that you like. This recipe made a somewhat thick soup, with the addition of the summer squash. More tomatoes will thin it out.
3 to 4 medium tomatoes
1 cucumber, seeds removed
1 summer squash, seeds removed (optional)
1 green or purple pepper , seeds removed
1 hot pepper, seeds removed
2 cloves of garlic
1 large slice of bakery bread, cut into 1 inch squares
1-1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley, dill, chives or basil
Ground black pepper to taste
To make the broth:
Take half of the vegetables, chop in quarters and add to your main serving bowl with 1 tsp salt and the bread. Mix until the bread softens. If you have 15 minutes or so, let them sit so that the flavor will develop. Add to the food processor. While running the food processor, slowly add the 1/2 cup olive oil. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until mixture is creamy.
To make the garnish:
Take the other half of the vegetables and cut into a dice. Add 1/2 tsp salt and mix.
To make the soup:
Combine broth, garnish, vinegar and herb in your serving bowl. Season with plenty of cracked black pepper and let sit in the fridge for at least a half hour for flavors to develop.