My introduction to gazpacho was like probably many of us, through Pedro Almodóvar's movie Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, where Pepa (played by Carmen Maura) throws a handful of barbiturates into a bright red tomato concoction prepared for her ex-lover. While the plot keeps twisting and turning, gazpacho plays bigger and bigger role in the movie, putting nearly all of its characters into deep sleep. When in the end, asked by a police officer what was in the gazpacho, Pepa while reciting a list of ingredients — Tomates, pimiento, cebollia, pepino, sal, vinagre — describes the perfect recipe for classic Andalusian gazpacho, adding that its whole secret lays in mixing it right.
It sounded so simple and refreshing, exactly what I needed after two hot hours of Spanish passion and drama.To prepare Gazpacho Andaluz you will need:
2 thick slices of day-old country bread, crusts removed and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 to 2 pounds ripest, sweetest most flavorful tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
1/2 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup bottled spring water,
2 small garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of ground cumin (optional)
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 firm medium-sized cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1/2 small red or Spanish onion, peeled and chopped
Save small amounts of bell peppers, onions and tomatoes.
2. Transfer the bread mixture to a food processor and add minced garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper (if using) and salt. Process until very smooth.
3. Add half of the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, generous pinch of salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil; process until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Repeat with another batch of vegetables and olive oil. You can also pass the soup through a sieve, but I don’t find it necessary.
4. Add some of the remaining sherry vinegar, salt and spring water. Taste and adjust amounts of each to your liking.
5. Chill for at least 3 hours.To serve: Divide between chilled soup bowls and prepare small dishes of chopped peppers, onions and tomatoes for garnish. Add side dish of olive oil for drizzling and some good crusty bread.
Crumpets and Cakes
(Images: Monika Kotus of Crumpets and Cakes)