During the hottest time of year, cooking doesn’t always feel like the right option. People from Portugal and Spain figured this out long before there was even electricity. Or was it the Romans that brought the first version of this dish to the Iberian peninsula? What are we talking about?
It’s called gazpacho and it’s an absolutely perfect appetizer (or light main course) on a hot summer day.
It was a sleeper recipe until the arrival of tomatoes in the 19th century. Adding tomatoes to the mix made it an international hit - I nearly wrote “became viral,” but viral is not always a positive thing...
Today, there are many “traditional” recipes out there. Andalusia alone has one for each of its regions. And the internet has one for each of its bloggers. My recipe is not traditional...it’s original and adjustable and works with ingredients we already have in our essential pantry. All we need are some fresh tomatoes and a cucumber from your garden or farmer’s market. It’s more of an idea of a recipe for you to make your own.
The first decision you have to make is how you want the finished soup to feel. From chunky and hearty to smooth and delicate, it's the process that allows you to control the outcome.
So here are a couple thoughts:
Tomatoes: We can skin the tomatoes by making an x on the bottom and boiling them for 15 seconds, then placing them in an ice water bath, and the peel should come off easily. That's a lot of work though. And we don't really feel like cooking in this heat. So let's just chop (and core) them roughly with the skin on and place in a bowl.
Other Ingredients: While we’re at it, let’s do the same with the cucumber (if you like, quickly peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler). Then, add a sweet bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped, to the bowl. And then a chopped shallot, cumin, and salt. Finally, add vinegar-soaked bread (or if not using bread, just add the vinegar).
Bread: If you have some stale bread lying around and don’t feel like making breadcrumbs, soak it in rice vinegar for a few minutes, break into chunks, and add to the bowl. It’ll thicken up the purée a little bit.
Blending: Next, put everything (or batches of it) in a food processor. Not every food processor blends the same and therefore the results will vary.
Strain or no-strain: Here’s my take: If I make a batch for a main course and have added bread, I wouldn’t strain it. Instead, I might even add some crab meat and top it with chimichurri before serving, to make something that’s probably not even called gazpacho anymore, but will definitely still be delicious.
If I want gazpacho as a starter, with a lovely mouth feel and topped with a basil leaf, I would strain it. Oh wait, I just had an idea: If it’s strained and I have some left over, why not add some hot sauce, vodka, Worcestershire, and freshly cracked pepper the next morning for a nice Bloody Mary….. Now we’re talking!
So in this recipe, let's go with the strained one.
Tomato Gazpacho Preparation
After you’ve strained your batch, put it back in the food processor.
Next, slowly add olive oil for good emulsification. It will thicken up. Finally, chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, or if you’re in a real hurry, it’s ok to add some ice cubes. Just drizzle some more olive oil on top to avoid a watery flavor.
I think you’re going to like the result very much!
If the oil should separate from the purée during the chilling process, simply re-blend it.
Tip: If you have way more tomatoes and cucumbers from your garden than you can eat as gazpacho or drink as a Bloody Mary, follow the recipe all the way through to the end, except DO NOT ADD the olive oil. Freeze the purée in batches. Whenever you’re ready, let it thaw in the fridge, then put it back in the food processor and slowly add olive oil before serving.
One last tip: Only you, who actually read this article, will know this secret ingredient that’s not listed in the recipe. Add an anchovy or a tablespoon of tomato paste to the bowl before blending...this deepens the flavor and adds umami.
This concludes the series of some of my favorite Latin country cuisine. You now have four easy recipes in your repertoire that you can easily tweak to your liking. If you come up with any improvements, please let me know...that's the whole point, to share and learn and create some tasty food.
If you’ve followed my Essential Food Pantry series, Parts 1-3, then you’ve realized how beautifully everything comes together. For any of the four recipes, all you need are one or two fresh ingredients that you can pick up on the way home and you’re good to go. The rest is in your pantry.
You might also look at the prep and “cooking” times. Cooking should not be complicated and time consuming. It should be quick, delicious, and healthy. Just don’t forget that even if the prep time says 5 minutes, there’s sometimes hands-off time involved, like in this one - to chill it down - so plan accordingly.
I’d love to hear what you think I should work on next! When I worked on the Thai street food recipe, my brain went into overdrive and I had so many ideas on how to create insanely delicious Southeast Asian street food right at home. Hmm, maybe I should slowly reveal my Extended Essential Pantry, because to make Southeast Asian Street Food, you have to extend your pantry a bit, not much, just a teeny bit - think fish sauce, for example.
3 More Latin Country Cuisine Recipes
Did you make this Tomato Gazpacho recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
Try This at Home - Tomato Gazpacho to Cool Off During the Dog Days of Summer
- 2 lbs tomatoes, cored and chopped
- 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, deseeded, and chopped
- 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
- ½ c extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 3 slices stale baguette
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- Add tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and shallot to a bowl.
- Soak bread in vinegar, break in pieces, and add to bowl (if not using bread, simply add 1 tablespoon rice vinegar).
- Add cumin and salt.
- Mix all ingredients together and add to food processor (in batches if necessary). Blend for 1 minute.
- Strain, put back in food processor, and slowly add olive oil to emulsify. Taste and add more salt as needed.
- Chill and serve.
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