It's All About Less Fuss, More Flavor
Beat the heat with this simple and refreshing, healthy gazpacho that's packed with tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, onion, and garlic.
It's funny how you can go so long without ever knowing about something, and then once you do you're instantly bombarded by it. That's what happened to me a while back with sherry wine vinegar.
I'd never heard of it before, saw it listed in a recipe, and then suddenly it seemed like half the recipes I came across during the next couple of weeks were calling for the stuff—which I still haven't been able to find for sale anywhere (update: found some!).
Then it was the phrase 'my bad.' I saw a book of cute animal photos called I'm Sorry. . . My Bad!, couldn't figure out the title, and the next thing I knew I was hearing my bad everywhere—including in a seven-year-old movie I'd already watched twice.
Lately it's been gazpacho. Of course I was already familiar with this cold soup, but I'd never actually made or tasted it. Back in August I was served some during a Sunday brunch with friends, and after one dainty slurp I was hooked.
"This would be the perfect thing to keep in the fridge all summer long!" I exclaimed, and immediately demanded the recipe. The hostess opened up a battered copy of Mollie Katzen's beloved New Moosewood Cookbook and proceeded to tell me how she'd personalized the recipe over the years, including stirring in a little yogurt and garnishing it with a dollop of sour cream.
That afternoon the gazpacho flood began. I found a recipe for it sitting in my e-mail in-box when I arrived back the farm. And another one in a magazine I flipped through that evening.
Gazpacho was suddenly everywhere on the web, too, and I discovered my foodie pal Finny had just whipped up a batch using tomatoes from her garden. On and on it went. I took this as a big red sign and dove in.
Gazpacho is, according to this article in Saveur magazine, "the definitive Andalusian dish, and—with the possible exception of paella—Spain's most famous culinary export." I've also learned that it has approximately three million variations.
The basic idea is that you combine bread, olive oil, and vinegar with some other ingredients (often fresh tomatoes and cucumbers), blend it up (or not), and serve the resulting mixture chilled. But just what are the other ingredients?
During some quick research I found recipes that called for—are you ready?—all of the following things: tomato juice, V8 juice, fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, stale bread, bread crumbs, cucumbers, green peppers, yellow peppers, red peppers, piquillo peppers, jalapeno peppers, chopped green chiles, radishes, leeks, garlic, celery, white onions, yellow onions, red onions, scallions, shallots, olive oil, vegetable oil, dry white wine, white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, tarragon vinegar, sherry wine vinegar, lime juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, unflavored gelatin, green olives with pimientos, chicken stock, a beef bouillon cube, chipotle chiles in adobo, sugar, maple syrup, honey, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, basil, oregano, tarragon, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, ginger, parsley, yogurt, sour cream, fava beans, avocado, almonds, green grapes, crab meat, zucchini, and water. Water?
The June 2008 issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food has a tropical gazpacho made with mangoes, cucumbers, and buttermilk. In The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, authors Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins included a recipe for green gazpacho that calls for arugula, watercress, yogurt, and three raw eggs.
In The New Basics Cookbook (one of my all time favorite cookbooks), Rosso and Lukins offer up a more traditional version and admit that they've been known to add a bit of vodka to their mugs "so that it becomes a Spanish Bloody Mary," which I thought sounded like a very good idea.
Gazpacho garnishes ran from chopped tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions to black olives and chopped hard-boiled eggs. Croutons were mentioned all over the place.
Ultimately I decided to go the very simple route with both ingredients and technique. I've never understood the common practice of adding purchased tomato juice to gazpacho when you could just use more fresh tomatoes instead, which is what I did.
I also skipped the traditional stale bread, went easy on the olive oil (one recipe I found called for 1½ cups!), and used white balsamic vinegar because that was what I had on hand.
There's no need to blanch, peel, seed, or force anything through a sieve in my version, and all of the vegetable goodness ends up right in your bowl. I wasn't trying for traditional, but I did leave out the gelatin, shrimp, and raw eggs. Besides being delicious, this gazpacho also happens to be extremely good for you.
If you've never had gazpacho, I urge you to give it a try, even if, like me, you're not a big fan of cold soups. This recipe is basically a thick juice, which can be sipped rather than slurped—and easily made thinner—if desired.
July 2011 update: I've gone crazy for Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (and I'm not usually a hot sauce person), so this year's gazpacho (ripen, tomatoes, ripen!) will likely be liberally doused with it.
What do you like to put in your gazpacho?
Some people refer to gazpacho as liquid salad.
Farmgirl Susan's Simple Summer Gazpacho
Makes about 6 cups (48 ounces)
**Click here to print this recipe**
While flavorful, vine-ripened tomatoes are of the utmost importance here, this is a perfect opportunity to use up those not-so-perfect-looking specimens you might have hanging around. Make it a day ahead if you can, as the flavor increases dramatically after sitting overnight in the fridge.
Weighing your ingredients makes things so much easier, especially when you're dealing with the often disparate sizes of fruits and vegetables. I love my Oxo Good Grips 11-pound digital kitchen scale and often use it several times a day. The pull-out display is awesome, and it's also great for weighing postage.
As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference.
2½ pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 8 medium), preferably heirloom and organic, chopped
2 medium cucumbers (about 13 ounces), chopped
2 small sweet red peppers (about 8 ounces), cored and chopped
1 yellow or white onion (about 8 ounces), chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic (1 heaping Tablespoon), finely chopped
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey (or 2 Tb. if your tomatoes aren't real sweet)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
A squirt of hot sauce, such as Sriracha
Celery stick and a splash of vodka
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Using a counter top blender (I really like my KitchenAid 7-cup blender), purée the vegetable mixture in small batches until smooth. Combine and stir well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Let sit for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
Serve chilled, with a little yogurt stirred in and/or a dollop of sour cream on top if desired, along with any other garnishes you like. This gazpacho will keep for three to four days.
Got a bumper crop? More Farmgirl Fare recipes featuring fresh tomatoes:
Easy Homemade Tomato Vegetable Juice (like V8 but better)
Savory Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Pie with an Easy Cheesy Biscuit CrustSun Dried Tomato and Fresh Tomato Artichoke Pesto (for pasta and more)
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.
© FarmgirlFare.com, the fresh picked foodie farm blog where the mornings may be nice and nippy (hooray for polar fleece season!), but our late-planted tomatoes and cucumbers in the kitchen garden are just now at their peak, and since putting up portable electric fencing is still hot and sweaty work even if it is only in the 70s outside, I see at least one more batch of refreshingly cool gazpacho being whizzed up in our early October future.