Spanish gazpacho is the best thing to have on a hot day in the summer when tomatoes are sweet and full of flavor. It was born in the province of Seville, where tomatoes were first grown in Spain. It was the meal agricultural laborerers made when they worked in vegetable gardens. They brought with them a dornillo (large wooden mortar and pestle) to pound the ingredients that grew on the spot, some olive oil, salt, and vinegar, and bread. Years ago when I went to Spain, the gazpacho was pounded by hand in the old way and the result was like a finely chopped and mashed salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Nowadays gazpachos are pureed in a food processor or blender.
There are many gazpacho recipes. My friend Manolo makes his with just tomatoes, garlic, and his own olive oil and vinegar. He makes quantities that he pours into large Coca-Cola bottles so that he and his sister and any friends who happen to be around can have some at any time of the day. I have used the following gazpacho recipe for years. I do not peel the tomatoes—if you use a food processor, the skin all but disappears. You can make this hours in advance, even the day before. If it is a very hot day, add an ice cube to each bowl when you serve. The garnish is optional. In Andalusia, they use green bell pepper because they like the peppery taste, but I like it with the sweet red pepper.–Claudia Roden
LC Got Gazpacho? Note
As Claudia Roden explains above, there’s no limit to the variations on this classic—or, we’d like to add, the manners in which you can serve it. Freshly made or from the fridge. Slurped from a bowl, whether alone for lunch or at a sit-down dinner with family or friends. Sipped from a shot glass or a tea cup as an hors d’oeuvre. Or however you please—perhaps, on those days when it’s not too hot to turn on the stove, even accompanied by a simple manchego quesadilla cut into wedges, a summertime riff on hot tomato soup with grilled cheese.
For the gazpacho
- 1 thick slice white bread crusts removed
- 2 1/4 pounds ripe plum tomatoes
- 1 red or green bell pepper cored, seeded, and cut into 4 pieces
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves crushed to a paste
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar or more to taste
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar or more to taste
For the optional garnishes
- 1/2 cucumber finely diced
- 1/2 red onion or 4 scallions finely chopped
- 1/2 red or green bell pepper finely diced
- 1 to 2 slices of white bread cut into small cubes and lightly toasted
- Dry the slice of bread under the broiler, turning it once, without browning it. Break it up into pieces.
- Quarter the tomatoes and remove the hard white bits at the stem end.
- Blend the bell pepper to a paste in a food processor. Add the rest of the soup ingredients and blend to a light cream. Add a little cold water if necessary to thin the gazpacho—about 1/2 to 2/3 cup. Pour into a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, for at least an hour or up to a day.
- Check the seasoning, and serve the gazpacho in soup bowls, accompanied, if you like, by the garnishes. Pass them around, each on a separate little plate or in four piles in a large serving plate.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This gazpacho couldn’t be simpler–or faster–to make. From tomato to table was fewer than 15 minutes. (Okay, I didn’t wait the requite cooling time–I just chilled the soup in a bowl of ice water.) There’s a nice acidity from the tomatoes and brightness from the vinegar. I also like how frothy and creamy it gets after its twirl around the food processor.
If it’s a particularly hot day, do as the Portuguese do (sorry, my Spanish cohort, but I had to!), add a few ice cubes to the bowl or go one better: freeze some of the soup into cubes so your concoction isn’t watered down.
Originally published August 10, 2011