The dog days of summer are upon us. I admit, my first instinct was to write about the imminent end of summer. But then I realized that many lingering balcony dinners lie ahead. (Big sigh of relief.)
For me, gazpacho is the quintessential summer food. Sure, summertime is also all about salads, grilled meats and ice cream, but we eat those same foods throughout the year, just to a lesser extent. Who would ever eat gazpacho in the winter? No one. Not in colder climates, anyway, where the tomatoes taste like cardboard and the vegetables all bear stickers of faraway places.
Gazpacho is an ancient dish. I like the theory that it travelled to Spain with the Moors. The modern-day home of gazpacho is arguably in Andalusia, although it is consumed all over Spain, and even in Portugal, where the cold soup is called gaspacho or caspacho.
My memories of gazpacho go back to my childhood. My mom would often make it for us as soon as the local tomato crop permitted. Her version always required a great deal of chopping, especially for our large family. I grew up assuming that traditional Spanish gazpacho was a cold tomato juice–based soup with a variety of diced vegetables, perhaps some herbs and citrus juice for zing. Apparently that version more closely resembles the Portuguese recipe.
Two summers ago, I was in Fribourg, Switzerland, visiting my Spanish friend Patricia. It was then that I discovered the delightful simplicity of gazpacho andaluz. Patricia kindly passed on her recipe, which I have adapted below.
The key to this recipe is in the ingredients. Use the best quality you can find, and make sure the tomatoes are ripe. Patricia’s initial instructions were to peel all the vegetables, but I soon realized that I could skip this step, except for the cucumber, which I still peel. Peel the tomatoes if you have the patience. I don’t. The colour of the bell peppers is up to you. I like red best for colour and digestibility, but apparently green is typical. Careful with the garlic and onion – a little goes a long way. Some purists might say that bread is an ingredient in salmorejo, not gazpacho, but I like the body it lends to this cold soup. Traditionally, stale bread was used.
This recipe makes quite a large batch. When you live alone, the challenge is to try not to drink up the whole thing in one go.
6 ripe tomatoes
One-half English cucumber, peeled
Smallish chunk of sweet onion (or handful of chives)
2 bell peppers
½ clove garlic
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
¼ c. best-quality olive oil
2 slices white bread
water (1 ½ to 2 cups)
Unless you have a giant commercial blender, the best way to make this recipe is in two (or even three) batches. Wash and coarsely chop all the vegetables and place them in a big bowl. Add about half to the blender, with half the liquid. Process until smooth. Pour into a large bowl or jug. Process the remaining ingredients and add to the first batch. Mix and adjust seasonings to taste.
|Summer lives in Switzerland. In her spare time, she is either on her bicycle or in her kitchen.|
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