Gazpacho was invented for days like these. The hot, humid days of summer when the very idea of setting a pot over a burner has us reaching for another glass of lemonade. There are a million and one versions of gazpacho out there, all equally easy to whip up in a blender and all equally perfect for a hazy summer night. Here's our most basic, simple recipe to get you started. Here's how this works: a basic gazpacho is made of ripe summer tomatoes blended with cucumber, shallots, and garlic, and seasoned with sherry vinegar and good olive oil. In many traditional versions of gazpacho, a few slices of day-old bread are blended with the vegetables for a thicker and more substantial soup. I really like this addition, but feel free to leave the bread out if you'd prefer a thinner soup.
That's your gazpacho base. Very good on its own, though perhaps a little plain and simple. A fine start to a meal or as a light dinner on a hot night when your appetite has fled. Use a food processor for a little more texture in your soup, or make gazpacho in a blender or with an immersion blender for a very smooth version.
The fun really starts when you bring other vegetables and seasonings into the mix. I love adding red pepper for its sweet notes, along with a healthy spoonful of smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Fennel gives gazpacho a really nice licorice-y flavor, especially when paired with some fresh basil on top. Chopped avocado is always welcome scattered across my bowl, when the corn is very fresh, I'll add some raw corn kernels, too.
Gazpacho is what you make it. Start with the basic ingredients, then let yourself get creative with whatever your farmers market or CSA brings you each week. With vegetables coming in so fresh and flavorful this time of year, it's impossible to go wrong.
How do you make your gazpacho?
Easy GazpachoServes 4 to 6
What You Need
1 1/2 - 2 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 thick slices day-old bread
1 medium cucumber
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Optional Extra Ingredients:
Whiz these into the soup or chop them up for garnishing the top.
Other Vegetables: 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper, 1 fennel bulb, 3-4 tomatillos, 1 avocado, 1 cup corn kernels
Instead of Bread: Handful of almonds or other nut
Instead of Vinegar: 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, juice from one orange, juice from 1-2 lemons, juice from 2-3 limes
Spices & Herbs (2-3 teaspoons): cumin, smoked paprika, basil, marjoram, tarragon, chile powder
Other Flavoring Extras: splash red wine, splash white wine, splash hot sauce
A sharp knife
A blender, food processor, or immersion blender
1. Prepare Your Ingredients: Quarter the tomatoes and remove the stem. Tear the bread into large chunks. Peel and roughly chop the cucumber, shallots, and garlic. Roughly chop or measure any extra ingredients being added. Set aside some of these vegetables for garnishing the finished gazpacho.
2. Combine the Tomatoes and Bread: Put all the bread pieces into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Squeeze the tomato quarters over the bread then add them to the bowl. Let this sit for about 20 minutes to give the bread time to absorb the tomato juices and soften.
If you prefer a thinner gazpacho, omit the bread and continue to the next step.
3. Make the Gazpacho: Pulse the tomatoes and bread until they form a rough porridge. Add the cucumber, shallots, garlic, vinegar, and a half teaspoon of salt. If you are using any other extra ingredients, add them in this step. Process continuously until the ingredients are liquified. A food processor will make gazpacho with more texture; a blender or immersion blender will make the gazpacho smoother.
4. Blend in the Olive Oil: With the blender running, stream in the olive oil. This helps it emulsify more evenly into the soup.
5. Taste and Adjust Seasonings: Taste the soup. Add salt or vinegar to taste. If you'd like it thinner, blend in a little water.
6. Chill the Soup: Transfer the soup to a storage container and refrigerate until chilled. This soup often tastes better the second day after the flavors have had time to settle with each other. Serve the soup garnished with reserved vegetables.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)