Gazpacho

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Soups | Gazpacho Image

(Spanish chilled tomato-cucumber soup)

Gazpacho, the famous soup from the Andalusia region of southern Spain, is an amazingly refreshing foil to a hot summer day. This drinkable salad has been around since Roman times and originally consisted of just a mixture of bread, garlic, oil and water seasoned with vinegar or verjus. It was a poor man's food. The discovery of the New World brought the addition of tomatoes and peppers.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced -- 2
  • Bell pepper, chopped -- 1
  • Onion, chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, crushed -- 2-3 cloves
  • Tomatoes, diced -- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
  • Water or tomato juice -- 1 cup
  • Red wine or sherry vinegar -- 1/4 cup
  • Breadcrumbs -- 1/2 to 1 cup
  • Olive oil -- 1/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste

Method

  1. Working in batches, puree the cucumbers, pepper, onion and garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the food processor or blender and puree. Strain through the sieve into the bowl with the cucumber-pepper puree.
  3. Whisk in the water or tomato juice, breadcrumbs and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Chill for at least 1-2 hours. Adjust seasoning and serve in a large bowl with any desired garnishes (see below).

Variations

  • There are hundreds of variations of gazpacho. Red gazpacho uses tomatoes for a base. Green gazpacho eliminates the tomato and adds minced herbs such a basil, mint or parsley. White gazpachos have neither tomatoes nor herbs, but are thickened with ground almonds or pine nuts and sometimes grapes. A famous white version, known as ajo blanco, contains ground almonds, garlic, breadcrumbs, vinegar, olive oil and salt.
  • Garnishes: For garnish, reserve some of the cucumber, onion and pepper. Finely chop each and serve in separate bowls for guests to garnish the soup as they please. Other common garnishes are croutons, chopped eggs and diced ham.
  • Leave the cucumber-pepper mix chunky if you prefer and eliminate the straining step. The tomatoes, however, should be strained to remove all their seeds.
  • Stir in ice cubes just before serving to keep the soup well chilled.
  • Stir in poached shrimp, lobster, scallops or crab to make seafood gazpacho.

Notes

  • Andalusian peasants traditionally pounded the ingredients in a mortar until they were smooth. The soup was then held in clay bowls and ladled out at leisure throughout the day. Today modern Spaniards use a blender.
  • Some consider gazpacho to be at its best after it has been setting for 3-4 days.
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