A gazpacho summer
“De gazpacho no hay empacho-You can never get too much of a good thing or too much Gazpacho” Old Spanish saying
Most people judge their summers in fun, travel, and the success of their gardens, I judge them in food. I officially declared this a gazpacho summer. I’ve always wanted a gazpacho summer! Warm and perfect with sparkling days that produce ample tomatoes for making this cold Spanish soup. I remember one cool summer, a few year ago, when I stomped over to my mother’s and boldly declared that I was moving somewhere, anywhere there were real summers that I could eat gazpacho.
Gazpacho is a cold vegetable soup that is cooling and smooth. It is chocked full of uncooked luscious summer vegetables and herbs that only come at the height of summer like tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, cilantro and basil. It has ancient roots that originate in Northern Africa and was brought over by the Moors to settle happily in Southern Spain, in the Andalusia region.
Americans have mostly tasted the tomato based gazpacho called “red”, but there is also “white” and “green” gazpacho. The white is dairy or almond based and the green is packed full of fresh herbs and greens for its color. There are many modern renditions that have morphed from the parent gazpacho to include melons, yogurt, tequila, strawberries and cauliflower but the common denominator of them all is lots of fresh produce, pureed and served cold.
Gazpacho is a simple peasant’s meal, made from the produce warm with the sun’s light that has been picked that day, stale bread and very good olive oil. It is intended to not only nourish but also quench the thirst so it is pureed. It is salad in a blender and summer in a bowl. In Spain, gazpacho is often served as a main course with garnishes that make it stick to the ribs. Cubed ham, avocados, hard boiled eggs and almonds are a few of the yummy toppings it is served with.
Before the invention of those mechanical wonders; blenders and food processors, the women would gather together in a group with all the produce and pound it to smithereens in a large wooden vat made just for the occasion. Single families would puree it with a mortar and pestle and all left overs were served with pasta or whatever at the next meal. As romantic as this sounds, I am quite content to whirl mine up in a blender.
Purists in the gazpacho world believe that this summer dish should be served at room temperature because chilling dampens down the sweetness and the fragrance of the fresh tomatoes. Its ok to chill is a bit in the fridge but don’t get it ice cold. However, any left overs should be stored in the fridge. Using a very nice extra virgin olive oil to the recipe is important to make the flavors pop.
The recipe I am sharing with you today is a combination of many that I have experimented with. This version does not have any bread in it but is based wholly on getting as ripe as tomatoes as possible for the true summer flavor to shine. If your tomatoes aren’t ripe enough, in fact almost over ripe, put them in a paper bag with an apple for a day or two till they are there. Here’s to our gazpacho summer! Hooray!
Summer NW Gazpacho
Serves 4. If you want to make this a real meal deal add to the garnishes some grilled cubed chicken breasts or some boiled chopped eggs.
2.5 pounds of ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pounds of cucumbers, coarsely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded, deveined and chopped
3 TBLS each of chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup of a good extra virgin olive oil
2 TBLS of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces of chevre or soft goat cheese
3 TBLS each of chopped fresh basil, divided
12 sugar snap peas, chopped into quarters
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
1 TBLS of lemon juice
Get out two nice big bowls and the blender. (If you have an immersion blender, you are in luck! Use it instead of all the bowls and blender.) In one of the large bowls, toss all the ingredients to the soup in there are mix till all is well married. In batches, put a few cups of the veggies in the blender and blend till smooth, pour into the other bowl. Press the pureed soup through a sieve or food mill to remove all the seeds and tomato skins. (You can skip this step if you want to de-seed and skin the veggies first but it seems easier this way for me.) Taste, flavor with salt and pepper and and refrigerate till you have your garnishes done.
Mix the goat cheese with 2 TBLS of the basil and cilantro till well blended, and roll into four balls. Gently toss the diced avo with the lemon juice in a small bowl. Serve up the gazpacho into summery bowls and add one goat cheese ball to each bowl and sprinkle with the garnishes and left over herbs. You can also serve in shot glasses for an easy starter. Serve with a sunny smile!