Gazpacho is one of those foods I grew up disliking until I realized I’d just been eating bad versions of them (Brussels sprouts are another example). The version I grew up with was on the daily specials board at every college town vegetarian spot: a chunky, acidic mess with too much red onion and dried oregano. It wasn’t until Heather and I took a trip to Spain that I had the silky smooth variety from the southern region of Andalucía—and came to understand that gazpacho is less cold soup than drinkable salad!
Generally associated with Moorish Spain, gazpacho has a murky past. There are several etymological traces–to the Latin word caspa, meaning “little pieces” and the Hebrew word gazaz, meaning “to break into little pieces,” among others–and its ancient origins point to the central ingredients of bread soaked in olive oil and vinegar. There are versions with grapes and almonds. New World ingredients like tomatoes and cucumbers came later.
In Seville, it was the perfect elixir to revive us after a morning of exploring the city in the wilting June heat. (The €1 goblets of crisp, light beer also helped.) Creamy red, bright with garlic and sherry vinegar, golden drops of olive oil shimmering on the surface. The only chunks in sight were served on the side: little condiment bowls filled with diced cucumbers, green peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and avocado.
When we got home, we quickly found the cookbook Delicioso! The Regional Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas, whose recipe for Andalusian gazpacho inspired this summer staple that helps us get through sultry evenings in New York City like real Spaniards. ¡Joder, que calor! Time for some olives and Marcona almonds, a chilly glass of rosé, and a bowl of silky smooth, chunk-free gazpacho.
- Large piece (about 3-4 inches) of stale baguette or other long loaf of bread remove crusts
- 2 pounds tomatoes coarsely chopped
- 2-3 mild green peppers coarsely chopped (frying peppers or cubanelles work well here)
- 2 kirby cucumbers peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 small to medium onion Vidalia or Spanish, coarsely chopped
- 4-6 large cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil mildly flavored
- sugar (optional)
- 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 cups cold water
- Soak the bread in water until soft and squeeze dry. Blend the tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, and garlic in a large food processor or blender with the olive oil, salt, sugar (if using), vinegars, and bread. Blend until silky smooth (in batches, if necessary) and strain (if necessary).
- Add water to the blender/food processor and mix until blended. (If there's no room in the blender, pour mixture into a separate container and stir in water.) Add more vinegar and/or salt to taste hill thoroughly.
- Serve in small bowls or tumblers. Garnish, if you like, with finely diced cucumber, tomato, pepper, avocado, chopped hard-boiled egg, or just a drizzle of olive oil.