I’ve never been to Spain (though I kind of like the Beatles) so I can’t say for sure if this is true, but Barbara Norman, author of The Spanish Cookbook, claims that gazpacho in Spain is not always made with tomatoes. Says she, Gazpacho Blanco from Cordoba contains olive oil, vinegar, water, garlic, and almonds; Gazpacho Extremeno from Estremadura is made with bread, garlic, vinegar, green pepper, a raw egg, olive oil, salt, and water. Malaga’s Gazpachuelo starts with mayonnaise and, depending on the cook, might include only water, lemon, and boiled potatoes or rice; a more luxurious version adds fish.
I suppose those versions developed in the centuries before tomatoes arrived in the Old Country and can be attributed to the Arab/Moorish influence; the use of vinegar as a food dates at least as far back as the Roman Empire. Like all dishes identified with a national cuisine, gazpacho rose from what was available. Nowadays you can find recipes for all kinds of gazpacho variations in much the same way that pesto (usually made with basil) now is sometimes made with cilantro, arugula, mint, or another ingredient (the word pesto means to pound or to crush using a mortar and pestle).
Telling people ahead of time that a dish is healthy will automatically turn them off. So I won’t mention that gazpacho is wildly healthy: wonderfully hydrating on these incredibly hot summer days (110 F/43C expected tomorrow); low-fat (even with the olive oil, which is one of the “good” oils); anti-oxidant rich; anti-osteoporosis rich; anti-prostate-cancer rich; full of healthy cholesterol-lowering compounds; packed with Vitamins C, A, K, and potassium; and is a great dish for weight-loss programs, as it fills you up without adding a lot of calories. Nope, I didn’t say any of that.
This is my version of gazpacho. A food processor, blender, or similar appliance is vital here. Caveat: do not attempt this if you cannot lay your hands on the best-quality, most flavorful tomatoes possible. Those pink rocks in the supermarket will not do.
- 3 pounds best quality homegrown tomatoes (Heirlooms are ideal but any real tomato will work)
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 mild, sweet onion (such as a Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
- juice of one lime or lemon
- red wine vinegar
- bottled hot sauce of your choice or a minced fresh hot pepper
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- the best extra-virgin olive oil you can find
- optional but probably necessary: V-8 juice, tomato juice, Trader Joe’s Garden Patch, or similar
Peel the cucumber. Wash tomatoes and bell pepper. Cut all vegetables into chunks. Start putting the first eight ingredients into the bowl of the food processor.
You’ll need some juicy vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes) in the processor along with the less-juicy vegetables (onions, bell pepper). This is where the V-8 may come in handy.
Process the soup in batches.
This first batch is lighter in color than the finished soup will be because it has more onion, cucumbers, and garlic than tomatoes.
As each batch is processed, pour in into a container large enough to hold all the soup (this recipe makes about a gallon).
Season the last batch with hot sauce, sea salt, pepper, lime juice, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a pour of olive oil (about 1/4 cup). Pour it in with the previous batches, stir, taste, and adjust seasoning as you like. If it’s thicker than you like, add some V-8.
If you want a very smooth soup, force through a sieve or a food mill. (If you do that, you could probably add some vodka and have a very fine Bloody Mary.) Myself, I like it with some texture, so I leave the processed soup alone, but I like to add some cubes of red bell pepper and cucumber to the finished soup.
Chill this soup until very cold. When serving, pour a very thin drizzle of olive oil on top.