Now that the dog days of summer are upon us, there is very little appeal in turning on the stove or the oven. On a sweltering day or evening there is nothing better than a frosty cold and delicious bowl of gazpacho.
Gazpacho originated in Andalusia in Southern Spain. Gazpacho appears to have evolved over the millennia. The earliest form of gazpacho likely arrived in Southern Spain with either the Romans or the Moors and was a peasant soup made from garlic, olive oil, stale bread, salt and vinegar. The tomato-rich gazpacho that we know today did not evolve until the 1800's, centuries after Christopher Columbus first introduced tomatoes from the New World to Europe.
There are various types of traditional gazpacho made throughout Southern Spain. Most include garlic, bread, olive oil, Spanish Sherry vinegar, tomatoes, peppers, onions and cucumber, although there are several variations that do not include tomatoes. But many other variations abound including green gazpachos, white gazpacho, gazpachos made with almonds, mushrooms, asparagus and green grapes.
Traditionally, gazpacho was made by hand with a mortar and pestle. Garlic was pounded with soaked bread, olive oil and salt to make a paste. Tomatoes, vegetables and vinegar were added and pounded until a soup-like consistency was obtained.
Fortunately, today we have food processors that allow us to whip out a batch of gazpacho in 15 - 20 minutes. It really could not be simpler. Start with some garlic and perhaps a small piece of shallot. Whirl until finely minced, then add your fruits and vegetables, some seasoning, perhaps some fresh herbs and a little Spanish sherry vinegar, tomato juice and olive oil. Presto, you have a refreshing meal.
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While bread is a traditional gazpacho ingredient, I have developed most of my gazpacho recipes without it to accommodate people on gluten-free or low-carb diets. I have one gazpacho recipe where I have added quinoa to give it a bit of heft, without the gluten. Almonds can be finely ground as an alternative to bread.
2. Ingredients Matter
The quality of your ingredients matters tremendously with gazpacho. So use ripe produce at its peak. If tomatoes are not great at the moment you are having a gazpacho jones, consider roasting them for extra flavor. Likewise use only great extra-virgin olive oil (avoid lite olive oil like the plague) and Spanish sherry vinegar
in your gazpacho. An off tasting oil or vinegar will ruin an otherwise great gazpacho.
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3. Pureed or Chunky Gazpacho?
There are two styles of gazpacho: 1) smooth and 2) chunky. In general, I like a little chunk to my gazpacho, but depending on the ingredients, in some cases, like my Sugar Kiss Melon Gazpacho
, I will make a smooth gazpacho.
What I find works best is to roughly chop the vegetables in a food processor. Set 1/2 to 3/4 of the chopped vegetables aside and then finely puree the remaining 1/4 to 1/2 of the ingredients. This gives gazpacho a little texture without being too salsa like.
4. Gazpacho Gets Better As it Ages
The wonderful thing about gazpacho is it gets better after it has a chance to rest in the fridge. I like to make a big batch and then eat it for lunch all week long.
5. Garnish for Greatness
To really bring the wow factor to your gazpacho, get creative with the garnish. Marcona almonds and a little feta is delicious. Crispy croutons or toasted small toasts baked with a bit of goat cheese add crunch and tang. Diced vegetables such as avocado, peppers and cucumber work well. Chopped boiled egg or some Spanish Iberico jambon are very nice.
My favorite trick is to pack gazpacho in 8 ounce mason jars. I fill the jars and refrigerate. The jars make for individual servings that are great for a packed lunch or a picnic. I think these Italian mason jars are particularly nice. I use them for individual servings of gazpacho, cold soups, shrimp cocktails and desserts. I also use them to make a week's worth of homemade salad dressing.
Here are our favorite gazpacho recipes:
This Watermelon Gazpacho
is fresh and feels like summer in a bowl. I add watermelon and basil leaves to the more traditional gazpacho ingredients and garnish with salted Marcona almonds and a sprinkling of feta cheese.
This summer-ready gazpacho
is what you need to make when peach season is at its peak. The goat cheese croutons make for a great crunchy, creamy and tangy garnish.
I discovered this this divine avocado gazpacho at The Vintage Restaurant in Sun Valley, Idaho. We were served this on a hot summer's night and immediately fell in love with it. There was something about the flavor that we could not put our finger on. Fortunately our waitress was willing to clue us in, and Jeff Key's cookbook was available for purchase so I was able to procure his recipe. You can find the recipe and the secret to this tasty soup here
I developed this recipe
a few years ago when I was experimenting with a gluten-free diet. I had a favorite gazpacho recipe by Elizabeth Shepherd, published in Epicurious in May 2001, called Mom's Gazpacho - Best Ever
, that called for bread crumbs and chopped boiled eggs. The boiled eggs are mashed with garlic and salt to create a foundation for the soup. The bread crumbs give the gazpacho a bit of heft. I modified Elizabeth's recipe by using quinoa as a substitute for the bread and the result was delicious.
If gazpacho and ceviche had a baby, this recipe
would be their progeny. It marries the best of gazpacho and ceviche and is a summertime party favorite at our house. Ingredients include shrimp, crab, tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, lime juice, Spanish Sherry vinegar, cilantro and cumin. I use canned crab from Costco to keep the cost down. I also make a big batch and eat it all week long. The flavor get better and better.
was inspired by a gazpacho I had at Mountain Standard Restaurant in Vail, Colorado. Roasting the peppers and tomatoes creates a smokey goodness and makes for a unique gazpacho.
This is an amazing gazpacho
that is perfect for bridging the Summer and Fall seasons. It uses sweet Sugar Kiss melon, toasted pepitas, feta cheese and a sprinkling of pomegranates that begin to come into season in the late summer. I throw in a bit of avocado to create a creamy texture. For this gazpacho I process it in a food processor or a blender to make it silky smooth. The end result is smooth, sweet, crunchy, tangy and totally refreshing.
7. Gazpacho is Uber Healthy for Your Brain
Lest you think gazpacho is just a tasty summer soup, it is also extraordinarily healthy. Gazpacho fits in well with the Mediterranean diet that focuses on plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lots of olive oil. There are lots of health benefits to adhering to the Mediterranean diet, but a recent study shows sticking with a Mediterranean diet is very good for your brain. University of California San Francisco just presented a study at the Alzheimer's Association International conference in London that shows adhering to a Mediterranean diet results in better cognitive function and 30 - 35% lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment. So dust off your food processor, throw in some fresh produce and a generous pour of extra virgin olive oil. Gazpacho is a delicious way to eat your way to long term brain health.