Have you ever wondered how to take a refreshing summer salad and turn it into a soup? I hadn’t either, but apparently the Spanish had, and the result is gazpacho: Cool refreshing gorgeous coral pink velvety deliciousness! If you’ve never tasted gazpacho, this is far better than you would imagine. (Believe me, this is nothing like v-8 juice.) If you’ve had and appreciated gazpacho before, you may very well love this version! With the incorporation of country bread, very good olive oil and aged sherry vinegar, it’s got a depth and complexity of flavor that leaves you licking your happy lips and holding out your glass for maybe just a little more. This can be a first course, served in champagne glasses if you like! Or serve it for lunch or on a hot summer evening along with some crusty bread and cheese. Absolutely no cooking required.
For the Soup:
- 2 cups cubed day-old country bread, crusts removed
- 2 medium-size garlic cloves, chopped (see NOTE)
- 1 small pinch of cumin seeds or ground cumin
- coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 3 pounds ripest, most flavorful tomatoes possible, seeded and chopped
- 2 small Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled and chopped
- 1 large Italian (frying) pepper, cored, seeded and chopped (see NOTE 2)
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 3 Tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil (of very good quality)
- 1/2 cup chilled bottled spring water, or more as needed (optional – I didn’t use, and was very satisfied with the result, but you may choose to add)
- 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged, or more to taste
For the Garnishes:
- Finely diced cucumber
- Finely diced peeled Granny Smith apple
- Finely diced slightly under-ripe tomato
- Finely diced green bell pepper
- Slivered small basil leaves
- Toasted, Herbed coarse bread crumbs
Place the bread in a bowl, covered with cold water and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the bread, squeezing out the excess liquid.
Place the garlic, cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them to a paste.
Place the tomatoes, cucumbers, Italian and red peppers, onion, soaked bread, and the garlic paste in a large bowl and toss to mix. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Working in two batches, places the vegetable mixture in a food processor and process until smooth, adding half of the olive oil to each batch. Once each batch is finished, puree it finely in a blender, then transfer to a large mixing bowl. (If you have a high-powered blender, you can omit the food processor step.)
When all the gazpacho has been pureed, whisk in the spring water and vinegar. (I added the vinegar first, and then a small amount of water, less than the 1/2 cup specified, until the thickness seemed right to me.) It should have the consistency of a smoothie. Taste for seasoning, probably adding more salt and possibly more vinegar as necessary. Refrigerate the gazpacho, covered, until chilled, about 2 hours. Serve the soup in glass bowls, or the type glass of your choice – wine or champagne perhaps? – along with the garnishes.
NOTE: Garlic – If you’re making the gazpacho a day ahead of time, you may want to add the garlic on the day it is to be served. Otherwise it’s possible that the garlic may slightly overpower the other flavors in the soup.
NOTE 2: an Italian frying pepper is large and pale green. I used a medium poblano or Anaheim pepper in its place since I was unable to locate the sweet Italian variety specified. No complaints were heard.
This recipe appears in the positively wonderful Spanish cookbook by Anya von Bremzen,
The New Spanish Table