A well-chilled cup of gazpacho is the ultimate summer meal. Basically a liquid salad, gazpacho is a mixture of tomatoes and fresh vegetables. It is classic Mediterranean fare with origins in Andalusia, Spain where olive and almond trees, vineyards for wine and sherry, fruit orchards, and farms growing vegetables and herbs dot the landscape. The cuisine is simple, made for and by hard-working people.
Gazpacho may have been born in Spain, but you can get a great bowl of it just about anywhere. It takes many forms. It can be red (tomatoes with fresh vegetables), white (cucumber and almonds with sliced grapes), or green (green vegetables and green herbs – sometimes avocado). The texture can also vary. Sometimes, it is made with bread which makes it creamy; sometimes the base is strained to make it thin; and sometimes everything is pureed together to make it chunky.
I make pitchers of gazpacho all summer long. It is something I often crave when the weather is hot, and it’s easy to have on hand. I’ve tried many recipes, but this one is my favorite. There are two parts to it: the liquid base and the toppings. The base is tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and garlic which is pureed with olive oil and sherry vinegar and then chilled. When you serve it, you add generous dollops of fresh chopped vegetables, croutons, and avocado. The melding of these raw flavors is fantastic – there is a little kick from the jalapeno, a creaminess from the avocado, acid from the sherry vinegar, and a vibrant crunch from the fresh vegetables. The taste is the genius of Mother Nature.
For the Soup:
5 lbs. ripe tomatoes, (about 10 large), cut into quarters
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves only
4 Tbsp sherry vinegar (preferably Spanish)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste (about 2 tsps)
For the Relish:
1 pint small tomatoes (pear, cherry, grape, etc.), sliced in half or quarters if you can manage
1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
2 large or 3 medium avocados, finely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
sea salt, to taste
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
For the Croutons:
1-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 baguette, slice into thin rounds and then quarter the rounds
1. BLEND OR PROCESS THE SOUP: In a blender or food processor, combine tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and sherry vinegar. While the motor is running, slowly add the olive oil and process until pureed. Add salt to taste. Option: pour liquid through a sieve to remove the skins and seeds. (I don’t bother.) Pour liquid into a glass pitcher; cover; and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
2. MAKE RELISH: While gazpacho chills, prepare the relish and make the croutons. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the relish except for the avocados which should be kept in a separate bowl with the pits. can be chopped and placed in a small bowl with the pits. Drizzle the tomato/cucumber mixture with 3 tsp olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toss.
3. MAKE CROUTONS: In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over MEDIUM HIGH. When hot, add bread, one slice at a time and fry until golden on both sides. Add more oil, 1 Tbsp at a time, as needed.
4. SERVE: Pour chilled gazpacho into bowls and top with a generous heap of the relish, some chopped avocado, and a few croutons. Place the remaining relish on the table for self-service.
Note: TURNING GAZPACHO INTO A MEAL
To turn gazpacho into a complete meal, add jumbo lump crab meat or boiled shrimp on top of the relish when you serve.
Peace and love from my kitchen to yours,