Gazpacho: An Overview

IMG_4316Gazpacho is certainly my favorite cold soup.  If you look in your cook books or online you will find a zillion different recipes for it.  Most of which call for certain basic ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, bread, and sweet peppers.  One of the exceptions to this is Ottolenghi’s Green Gazpacho, which has no tomatoes in it at all.

Some cooks like Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger make things easier by using tomato juice as their base so you don’t have to deal with the de-seeding and tomato peeling that often is required in Gazapacho making.  Indeed most of the time I spent making this last batch of Gazpacho was trying to get rid of the damn tomato seeds (have you ever noticed that tomatoes have an incredible amount of seeds?)

Paprika or Piment d’Espelette are common additions, Milliken and Feniger put a hefty amount of Paprika into a mayo which they  dollop into the soup just before serving David Lebovitz add a small amount of Piment d’Espelette directly into the soup (and it’s delicious).  He also floats herbed goat cheese toasts on his Gazpacho: the creamy, garlicky, herby contrast to the acidic bright soup is the perfect addition.

Alice Waters adds a Latin touch to her Gazpacho by grating her tomatoes on a box grater (which is very Spanish), discarding the skin, saying you can sieve out the seeds if you want. Which seems very cavalier to me, for Alice.  She also adds dried Ancho Chile into her soup for a little hint o’ Mexico.  I appreciate her technique: the soup is mostly smooth and the chunky bits are added on top.

Ina Garten is very practical about the whole thing: Chop everything in the food processor, then add tomato juice.

Peeling tomatoes is a drag and dealing with the seeds can make you crazy.  Ina doesn’t worry about seeding or peeling.

I do like the idea of a fresh cold tomato soup texture so the idea of using a box grater is a nice compromise: no canned tomato juice and no elaborate hot water ice bath sieve peeling scenario.

Given all these options here is what I have come up with.  It always changes, given my mood, how much time and effort I want to put into it and what I have on hand.  Let me know what you think and please feel free to share your Gazpacho stories/recipes in the comments.

Gazpacho

2 pounds of red tomatoes is a good base, grate the flesh, seeds and all, discarding the skin.  Put it through a sieve if you want to remove the seeds or put it in a blender.

I used a hearty slice of sour dough (crust removed) in the version picture at the bottom and it was a bit mealy, Alice waters suggests you pound your soaked bread. I did find recipes that suggested sour dough but most call for a rustic, crust removed white bread.

Take 1 thick slice of crustless white bread (about a cup) and soak it in water for a minute. Remove and squeeze all the water out.  Reserve.

Using a mortar and pestle who am I kidding, use a small food processor and save yourself the grief, add 2-3 large cloves of garlic, 1/2 red onion and 2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt (give or take). Pounding Pulsing them together to a fine pulp. Add the reserved bread and pulse until well a fine paste, stir into the tomato mixture.

Whisk in 2 Tablespoons of Sherry or Red Wine Vinegar, 1/4 cup of good Olive Oil and 1 teaspoon of Paprika (smoked, sweet or if you have some some on hand some Piment d’Espelette).

Stir in 1 Tablespoon of Vodka (thank you David Lebovitz for this!)

Season well with freshly grated black pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning.  You want it assertive as you are going to be adding a bunch of vegetables for garnish.

Partially peel 1 cucumber with a stripe pattern (vertical) and seed.  Chop fine.  Place in a medium size bowl.

Finely dice 1 stalk of celery with leaves.  Add to cucumber.

Stem and wash 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes (try and get a range of colors: yellow, orange red, if you can get heirloom even better.) Cut in half. Add to the cucumbers.

Seed and finely dice 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper (or if you have all three on hand mix them up). Add to the cucumber tomato mixture.  Gently toss them all together.

Optionally you can add in a handful of torn basil leaves.

Now at this point you have a choice mix the cucumber mixture into the soup base or service it on top as a garnish.

Given you had to go out and buy bread for this recipe it seems a waste not to do something with all the leftover.  In a small bowl add 1 finely chopped garlic clove, and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Slice the bread and slather it with the garlic oil and toast it under the broiler.

In a small bowl add 1 cup of fresh goat cheese, enough olive oil to make a thick paste from, a pinch of salt and if you have extra basil add some.  I used Thyme it worked great too, but just plain works great. IMG_4265I know it’s summer and you aren’t suppose to have the oven on thats one of the reason you make a cold soup!  I actually put my cheese toasts back into the hot oven for a few minutes so it would get a little melted.  Optional.

I served them on the side because they were slices not rounds, if you choose to stir in all your fresh vegetables and you used baguette rounds you can serve them on top of the soup or if you were more rustic like me serve them on the side.  Any way you serve them will make your guest happy. 

Have a great last weekend of summer,

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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4 Responses to Gazpacho: An Overview

  1. Ema Jones says:

    Can I add in tofu instead of goat cheese? Plz suggest…

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