Gazpacho is a cold soup from Andalucía, in southern Spain. Many food historians believe that it is derived from a Roman dish made with bread and water flavored with olive oil and salt. The name gazpacho may come from the Latin word, caspa, meaning “fragments” or “little pieces”, which refers to the bread crumbs, an essential ingredient in the Andalusian version. The bread not only thickens the soup, but also makes it more filling. Tomatoes, considered today as classic ingredient in gazpacho, was not added to the soup until the discovery of the New World.
Made from fresh ingredients, gazpacho is uncooked and basically consists of a purée of tomatoes, day-old bread, extra-virgin olive oil, and garlic. To me, recipes which call for tomato juice, canned tomatoes, V8 juice, or bloody mary mix, are missing the point of making gazpacho – showcasing the best, most flavorful tomatoes in a simple, yet satisfying soup. Cold and refreshing, gazpacho is the perfect antidote to the summer heat, either as a light lunch or an afternoon merienda, or light snack.
In Spain, gazpacho is typically served with an array of diced garnish – tomato, onion, cucumber, green pepper, hard-boiled egg, and ham – each in a separate bowl so diners can choose their own toppings. I prefer smooth gazpacho so I opted against adding too much chunky garnish. I also made a slight departure to the authentic recipe by garnishing with basil, something no self-respecting Andalusian would ever do.
Yields 2 to 3 servings
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large (2 cups) red or green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1-1/2 pounds (about 4 large) best quality tomatoes you can find, cut into large chunks
3-inch long piece of day-old baguette or country bread, cubed
1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or more to taste (red wine vinegar is a good substitute)
2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup water, if needed (I did not need to add any water to achieve correct consistency)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and small-diced, for garnish
1 cup white onion, small-diced, for garnish
basil leaves, for garnish (optional)
additional extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Put the garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, bread, olive oil, vinegar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse at first, then process continuously until the ingredients until puréed and smooth, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Pass the soup through a large fine sieve set over a large bowl, pressing lightly until all the liquid has passed through the sieve. Discard the solids. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, if needed, to achieve the correct consistency of the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt or vinegar, if needed. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. If serving immediately, add a few ice cubes in serving bowls.
Ladle the gazpacho into chilled bowls or cups. Grind fresh black pepper on top, if desisred, and garnish with diced cucumber, onion, and basil leaves and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
Adapted from Fine Cooking.
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