Gazpacho, what a perfect name for a chilled soup. Ever since hearing of the exotic "gazpacho," I have been intrigued and perplexed by its very foreign name. I came to learn that the soup's roots lie in Andalusia in the southern region of Spain. Gazpacho originated as a cold soup of stale bread, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Once tomatoes were brought from the New World and added to the traditional recipe, the summertime soup became even more refreshing. Over the years the soup has transformed, sometimes omitting bread, and in some tomato-less variations including almonds, cucumbers, and grapes. When I tried gazpacho for the first time, I realized what I had been missing and what I had misconstrued as foreignness was just my lack of knowing how incredibly simple it is to make.
With no cooking involved, all that is needed are fresh vegetables, a good sharp knife, and a blender. I've attempted to make gazpacho before but haven't always been successful with achieving the right vegetable combination or the texture. It's entirely about having that just-so touch witth the blender. Blend too little, the soup will be too grainy and blend too much, it will be watery. One way to get really good texture is to reserve some of the chopped vegetables to add back into the puréed soup. This will create a chunky version, which is the kind I prefer. Some recipes call for pushing the soup through a sieve. Others recommend a food mill, which will achieve a really good texture. It's really personal preference that dictates whichever textural method is used.
I've taken for inspiration a recipe from my friend Danielle's mom. Hers is one of the best gazpacho's I've tasted. Tomatoes and garlic are key in this recipe, but the addition of cucumber, celery, and bell pepper really add extra fresh vegetal flavor. I particularly like this combination of fresh vegetables, a few of which I was able to get directly from my garden. Lemon juice or vinegar can be used to add the extra tang that is so necessary in the flavor profile of this soup. Here I use red-wine vinegar, which does the trick perfectly. And a bit of sweet and hot Spanish or Hungarian paprika adds the finishing touch.
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium celery stalk, chopped
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon hot paprika
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped parsley
In a blender, combine half the tomatoes, half the cucumbers, half the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and both sweet and hot paprika. Purée until almost smooth.
Pour mixture into a bowl. Stir in vinegar, olive oil, and water. Add parsley and the remaining chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.