“De gazpacho no hay empacho.”
Translation: “You can never get too much of a good thing, like gazpacho.”
With tomatoes voluptuously plumping in the sun on vines across the country, enticing us with their earthy perfume, it’s time for gazpacho.
Strangely, the word gazpacho seems to have come from bread, not tomatoes. Some food historians say it originated with the Romans who liked to eat bread soaked in vinegar; in Latin “Caspa” means little pieces. Others say it began with the Moors, gazpacho being the Arabic word for “soaked bread.”
Traditionally, gazpacho was made by pounding stale bread, garlic, olive oil and salt into a paste and then adding very ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, ice water and vinegar. (The tomato is a member of the Solanaceae family, which also includes poisonous nightshades. Adding vinegar to tomato dishes was considered a safety device, notes Elizabeth David, who can be credited with introducing the English-speaking world to a Mediterranean diet.) I like this old-fashioned method of making gazpacho where each ingredient, like in jazz, has a distinct texture, so preferable to the foamy blandness, like elevator music, that comes from frothing gazpacho ingredients in a blender or food processor.
And what a variety of ingredients you find in the thousands of different gazpacho recipes. In my collection alone, in addition to the ingredients mentioned above, there’s lemon and lime juice (instead of vinegar). Varying herbs and spices like cumin, mint, cilantro, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano and bay leaves. Olives. Jalapeños and Serrano chiles. Other vegetables like avocados and tomatillos. Different fruits such as watermelon, grapes and oranges. Almonds. Proteins like hard-boiled eggs, ham, shrimp, crab and clams. Thickeners like ketchup, chilli sauce and salsa. Juices like tomato, V-8 and clamato. What have I forgotten?
For more than a dozen years at Casa Magellan and Spice in late summer when Milan the Tomato Man from Stoney Paradise comes to town with his cash crop, we build a dinner party around gazpacho from Amanda Hesser’s recipe in The New York Times. She adapted it from Quince Restaurant in San Francisco.
Refined, delicate and sophisticated, the Times recipe is a deconstructed gazpacho that has you juicing fresh, ripe tomatoes, making a cucumber granita and presenting the other ingredients as separate accoutrements on the rim of each soup bowl. Or in separate little dishes if your soup bowls don’t have rims. I’ve adapted it even further. Where would we buy cucumber vinegar? And we prefer a little more garlic and quite a lot more of Milan’s sweet, little Sungold tomatoes. Unpeeled, I might add. When we served it to the Argentinian wife of one of Magellan’s childhood friends, Estela pronounced it the best gazpacho she’d ever eaten, a compliment I replay when taking the time to make this summer treat.
But when you’re making a quick lunch for two in the heat of August (or camping in the deserts of the Southwest US), you want a fast, easy recipe for gazpacho.
Today we give you both versions. Dinner Party Gazpacho and Rove-Inn Gazpacho. Enjoy too much of a good thing while the good tomatoes last.
- 2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 pounds of ripe, juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped (you will want about 4 cups of juice)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 slices of excellent bread (a ciabatta, Italian white or country style) crusts removed, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- ¼ cup shallot, finely diced
- ¼ cup red pepper, finely chopped (I use yellow if the juiced tomatoes are red)
- 2 Tbsp Serrano chili, minced
- 1½ cups Sungold tomatoes, quartered
- Pulse the cucumber in a food processor until it's smooth. Stir in the vinegar and salt. Place the mixture in a wide, shallow dish and put it in your freezer for 2 hours, running a fork through it from time to time to keep it granular. (You could do this the day before.)
- Pass the tomatoes through a food mill using the finest attachment. Strain the tomato juice through a sieve. Season with freshly ground sea salt and pepper o taste and refrigerate.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Fry the garlic slices until golden, remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels. Season with freshly ground sea salt.
- Using the same oil, fry the bread cubes until golden. Remove to a plate, season with salt and set aside.
- Ladle the soup into chilled bowls. Arrange an equal proportion of the garnishes around the rim of each bowl. Spoon the cucumber granita evenly into the centre of each bowl and smile when the compliments come.
- 1 cup ripe juicy tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 12-oz bottle V-8 juice, chilled
- 1 slice of stale bread, crumbled
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 2 Tbsp cucumber
- 2 Tbsp green onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp white, yellow or red onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp peppers, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp ketchup or salsa
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, pressed or minced
- 1 tsp Serrano or jalapeño chili, finely chopped
- Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
- Mix everything together and enjoy.
David, Elizabeth. An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Grub Street: London, 2009.
Hesser, Amanada. The Essential New York Times Cookbook. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2010. A full 933 pages and 1,400 recipes revised and updated from the massive 150 years of food archives of the Times, this makes a great shower present, wedding gift or grand addition to any home cook’s library. In it, Amanda includes the gazpacho recipe we have adapted as well as five others.
For more about Milan The Tomato Man, go to our post Lasagna Verdi alla Napoletana from Scratcha.’
Magellan and I have eaten in the wonderful restaurant, Quince, but in late autumn when local tomato vines were pulled from the earth and gazpacho from their menu.