t’s summertime. You and your glass of iced tea sweat even in the shade of your porch. Tomatoes are ripening bright red in the garden. You think of getting up and crossing the yard to pluck one of the plump orbs from its weakening green tether, but then you realize it’s hot out there in the sun’s strong rays. So hot that those tempting tomatoes are probably hot, too, heated as they hang heavily on the exposed vine. If you were to pluck one and sink your teeth into its soft flesh, it would give way and dribble warm juice down your chin. That’s not refreshing at all. Nor is a warm tomato sandwich.
You know where else is hot this time of year? Spain.
We could stand to learn a thing or two about summer from the Spaniards. They invented the siesta, after all, an afternoon nap that makes oppressive summer days more tolerable. Wine is uncorked and cooled with fruit and ice. Honeydew is sliced and topped with pieces of cooled, salty ham. Tomatoes? Blended with bread, garlic, and olive oil, then served as a chilled soup. Genius.
I’ve encountered many an American who turns their nose up at chilled tomato soup. But it’s so much more than that! As I hope you’ll find, gazpacho is bursting with flavor and is the perfect midday meal when being outside is more than you can stand. This soup can also be served in the evening with other tapas, if you so choose, as it is incredibly light (depending on what toppings you use).
The recipe I’ve provided here is the only gazpacho I’ve consumed outside of Spain that tastes like the gazpacho ready to order at any restaurant in Andalucia. It’s made almost weekly at my parent’s house during the summer, and, now that I’m married and living in an apartment without AC, I find myself craving a refreshing bowlful just as often.
As you would find if you were to go from restaurant to restaurant in Granada, gazpacho has many variations. I think the recipe provided below, though, lends itself to being dressed up or eaten as is. So, leave the shade of your porch, go to the garden (or farmer’s market), pick all the tomatoes your heart desires, and make gazpacho!
2 lbs. tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 slice of French bread
1 bunch of green onions
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
3 Tbsp olive oil
fresh cracked salt & pepper
pinch of ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
*I highly recommend using a 14-cup food processor. If yours is smaller, split the batch as to avoid painting you and your kitchen red.
1. Rinse, core, then quarter the tomatoes. Halve the quarters, forming more manageable eighths. Place in a large food processor*.
2. Rinse, core, then seed the peppers. Slice into strips, but don’t be a perfectionist. This, too, is being tossed in the food processor.
3. Dampen the piece of French bread then squeeze out the excess water. Place in food processor.
4. Cut the green onions where the green fades into white. Then trim the roots off the bulbs. Toss the remaining light green/white sections into the food processor, saving the green part of the onion for a topping later, if you so desire. (If you do this, I recommend you wait to chop this part until the soup is chilled and ready to be served.)
5. Blend until mostly combined.
6. Unplug the food processor (I’m still looking out for your clothes, hair, and kitchen walls), unstop the chute (or remove the lid completely), and add the remaining ingredients — garlic, balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, salt & pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, and sugar. Replace the lid or stopper, plug back in the processor, and blend until just combined. Not too smooth! You want a bit of texture. (Actually, to me, the best gazpacho is somewhere between diced veggies and liquidy. I despise it when restaurants think gazpacho is chopped veggies standing in vinegary water or cold Campbell’s tomato soup. It should have some chunkiness to it.)
7. Transfer the soup from the food processor to a separate, large bowl with a lid for storage. Put in the fridge to chill for at least an hour, if not two. It’s much better served cold. If you eat it immediately, you’ll immediately regret it…unless you like lukewarm V8. Then…cheers?
After a few hours, serve with chopped green onions, or, if you’d like to make it more like salmorejo, top with diced serrano ham and hard-boiled eggs. I also recommend some of that crusty French baguette on the side, and a Spanish red wine…or sangria, since it is summertime!