|GAZPACHO! (Photo by J.D. Dallet)|
Ripe tomatoes in the garden and hot August days—definitely time for gazpacho. At my house, gazpacho is true to its roots—tomatoes, garlic, onion, green peppers and cucumbers from the garden, a chunk of stale bread, my own extra virgin olive oil.
I whirl the ingredients in a blender, sieve out the bits of skin and tomato seeds, thin the gazpacho slightly with cold water. Cool and refreshing, it’s a light lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up.
Gazpacho belongs to Andalusia, southern Spain. It was a simple meal for people working in the fields, in vineyards, olive plantations, citrus groves, wheat fields or cork forests. Bread soaked in water was the basis, to which was added oil, garlic and salt for flavor, plus whatever fresh vegetables were available—tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the summer.
|Tomatoes from the garden for gazpacho.|
From these peasant beginnings, gazpacho has become quite the cosmopolite, appearing on the menus of sophisticated restaurants in many parts of the world. I am constantly astounded to see recipes for gazpacho in American food mags that call for tomato juice, beef broth, ketchup or chile-hot salsa. Besides authenticity, something is lost in the translation—namely, the freshness of gazpacho made with raw ingredients.
If there is a single essential ingredient in gazpacho it is extra virgin olive oil. (If you thought it was tomatoes, remember, there are white gazpachos too.) The oil contributes flavor and, in combination with bread, turns the cold soup into a thick, creamy emulsion.
If you have tasted gazpacho at a restaurant in Spain, you may have had it served with accompanying dishes of chopped onions, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and croutons. Other authentic touches are sprigs of mint, chopped egg, chopped apple or melon. Flavorings for authentic gazpacho are few—salt—but no pepper—garlic, cumin, sometimes sweet paprika—but never hot chile. But, hey, if you like the idea of chopped basil, give it a try. I sometimes serve gazpacho with cucumber granita (that recipe is here). Gazpacho also is typically served in tall glasses to be sipped or in shot glasses as a tapa.
Check out this video clip—I’m showing Padma Lakshmi (host of Bravo’s Top Chef) how to make gazpacho in my kitchen in Spain. The whole program, part of Planet Food—Spain that Padma hosted, first aired on the Food Network in 2001 and still gets shown on the Discovery Channel round the world. I occasionally get messages from friends in Singapore or Sydney or San Francisco saying they’ve just seen me on TV. I'm the short one, holding the bottle of olive oil.
The gazpacho should be the consistency of light cream. If it is to be served for sipping, thin with additional water. Lemon juice can be substituted for the vinegar.
Serves 6 to 8.
|Ingredients for gazpacho.|
water to soak the bread
5 ripe tomatoes (about 2 lb)
2 cloves garlic
small piece of green pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons wine vinegar (red or white)
1 ½ cups cold water
For the garnishes:
1 small green pepper, finely chopped
½ cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
2 slices bread, diced and fried crisp in a little olive oil
Break the bread into chunks and soak it in water to cover until softened.
Remove cores from the tomatoes. Cut them into chunks and puree in a blender or food processor. Press the juice and pulp through a sieve, discarding the bits of skin and seeds.
Squeeze the water from the bread and place it in blender or food processor with the garlic. Blend until smooth.
Add the tomato pulp, green pepper, cumin and salt. With the blender running, add the oil in a slow stream. Blend in the vinegar and some of the water.
Place the gazpacho in a pitcher and add remaining water. Serve immediately or chill until serving time.
To serve: pour the gazpacho into individual bowls. Place each of the garnishes in small bowls. Pass the garnishes with the gazpacho and allow guests to serve themselves.