The zing of cold soup as it hits your tongue, its surprisingly velvety consistency, the buoyance of color – it’s all sort of unexpected coming from a cold tomato smoothie. Gazpacho is a textural chameleon, ranging from creamy blends, to chunky consistencies, to thin liquids drunk by the shot glass. We’ve seen it a hundred different ways: we’ve had complex soups that have blown our minds – and we’ve had those watery flops reminiscent of the pale tomato slices served atop fast food burgers. Salsa has been served under its alias and we’ve tasted bowls so garlicky or so spiked with vinegar they make us squeal.
There are a number of theories on the origin of gazpacho, many declaring the soup to be from an Arabic starter bowl of bread and tomatoes. This liquid salad is more commonly known as coming from Andalusia, the southernmost province of Spain. Just like wine, gazpacho varies by regional refinement, but the backbone of gazpacho is always bread. Without the inclusion of bread, gazpacho is left as a wimpy salsa. Soups have a reputation for being hearty and for feeding people – some are suspicious of soups in the form of the chilled variety . The addition of pureed bread yields volume and gives the wholesome repast a more curvaceous appeal.
Tomatoes are the main medium for gazpacho – it’s the proportion and choice of ad-ins that make it work or let it fall flat. Cucumbers, bell peppers, garlic, onions, olive oil, and vinegar are the other customary ingredients involved in the traditional form. In the Spanish soup family, we also see a variation called “Salmorejo,” Gazpacho’s lesser-known sibling. Salmorejo contains more bread and is a solo performance by the tomato – no other vegetables are added. It’s a thicker, more carbed-up variation. Gazpacho is the perfect summer quench for warm weather and really takes little effort.
Tips for a Good Gaz:
- The bread should be firm or stale, with no crusts.
- Sherry vinegar is preferred: red wine vinegar comes in second.
- Use good quality olive oil.
- Make a few hours ahead to let flavors marinate, but don’t make it too far in advance or the veggies will lose their maximum freshness.
- Heirlooms or beefsteaks are good tomato choices.
- Use Vidalia or an other sweet onion variety.
- Float diced cucumbers and tomato on top as garnish.
- If it seems flat, try revitalizing the soup by adding a dash of vinegar.
- The fresher the produce the better.
- A spoonful of canned tomatoes can add concentrated depth. Use a good brand, like San Marzano.
- Serve it really cold.
- Use an immersion blender for a rougher soup; use an upright blender for a smoother consistency.
Try These Variations:
1. Add fresh crabmeat – pureed in or folded in after.
2. Add a handful of blanched almonds before pureeing.
3. Substitute a portion of the tomato with avocado for a creamier and more “whipped” gazpacho.
4. Try a fresh mint garnish for extra freshness.