I have become interested in gazpacho lately. Partly, this is because we enjoyed some wonderful gazpacho while traveling in Spain recently. But more urgently, this interest arises from the overwhelming quantity of tomatoes we are harvesting each day from our garden.
Here’s what I have learned about gazpacho recipes.
They can be divided into those that use canned or jarred tomato juice or equivalent, and those that don’t. In my mind, the ones using canned tomato juice can be ignored. It’s not that it’s cheating (though it probably is), but rather that the whole beauty of gazpacho lies in the garden-fresh goodness of the tomatoes, a trait that’s completely lacking in the canned juice. And you can tell.
Among the remaining recipes, these can be divided into those that use bread in some form as a thickening agent, and those that don’t. There are reputable advocates on both sides of this divide, but I side with those who do not use bread. I am a tomato purist.
Among the recipes still remaining, there are those that call for the whole soup to be pureed to a silky smoothness, and those that prefer chunks. The gazpachos we enjoyed in Spain recently were the pureed type, and quite delicious. On the other hand, in the past we have also enjoyed very chunky gazpachos in both Spain and Portugal on a past trip to different regions. I like to have it both ways: noticeable chunks in an otherwise smooth soup.
After all this research, I ended up with five not-quite-right-for-me recipes from the Internet. I used features of all five, and what follows here is my own recipe. It came out with perfect all-tomato, no-bread, smooth-yet-also-chunky goodness. I hope you enjoy it, but be warned: Use the very best fresh, local tomatoes you can find. The better the tomatoes, the better the soup.
Ginger’s Own Summer Gazpacho
- 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded
- ½ large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded
- 1 small hot red pepper (such as cayenne), minced (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 – 2 ½ pounds very ripe red tomatoes, peeled
- ½ large onion, chopped (chop about 1/3 of this coarsely, the rest finer)
- 2 Tbsp (or more) sherry or red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, more or less
- Quartered cherry tomatoes (optional), chopped chives and basil (for serving)
Cut 2-3″ of the cucumber into ¼” pieces and set aside; coarsely chop remaining cucumber and place in a large bowl. Cut one-quarter of the bell pepper into ¼” pieces and set aside; coarsely chop remaining bell pepper and add to bowl with chopped cucumber. Chop one-quarter of the onion into small pieces (1/8”) and set aside; coarsely chop the rest and add to the large bowl with the cucumbers and peppers.
Cut the tomatoes into four or six wedges and seed them over a strainer set above a bowl to catch the liquid. Squeeze liquid out of the seeds.
Transfer about ¾ of the tomatoes and all of the juice to a blender. Add about ¾ of the cucumber mixture. Add garlic, hot peppers, vinegar, salt, and oil; and purée on medium speed until smooth. Adjust seasonings with salt and vinegar, if desired. Add the rest of the tomatoes and the cucumber mixture from the large bowl, and puree only briefly so that coarse pieces still remain. Add the pieces that have been set aside. Transfer to a large bowl or pitcher and chill at least an hour; overnight is better.
Divide gazpacho among bowls. Top with cherry tomatoes if you use them, chives, and basil.