This smoky gazpacho combines lightly grilled tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, and onion in a blended soup that’s perfect for summer.
Although I like raw bell peppers on their own or as crudités, I think they can be a bit of a flavor bully in this soup. For that reason, find the sweetest red or yellow bell pepper you can. By no means should you use a green bell pepper for this.–Barton Seaver
DOES GAZPACHO SOUP NEED TO BE SERVED COLD?
We wondered the same thing. Here’s what Chef Barton Seaver himself has to say about it, “I’m conflicted on chilling this soup, as I think it can numb the flavors, but it does offer a welcome refreshing quality. So go with what you prefer, room temperature or chilled.” It’s up to you, then. Gazpacho is traditionally served cold but Seaver does make a good point about optimum flavor. Go with your gut on this one or, even better, try it both ways.
- Strong-flavored wood chips, such as hickory or maple
- 1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes (look for sweet, juicy varieties like Brandywine or Cherokee Purple), cored and quartered
- 1 large cucumber peeled and chopped
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and quartered
- 1 onion cut into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Place the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and garlic on a small baking sheet and set it on the grill adjacent to the coals of a small fire. Add some strong-flavored wood chips, such as hickory or maple, and cover the grill. Smoke the vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes, just long enough to barely flavor the ingredients.
- Place the tomato wedges in a blender and use a spoon to lightly crush them to release some of their juices. (This will provide the necessary liquid to purée the other ingredients.) Add the other vegetables, along with the oil and vinegar, and season generously with salt. Purée until all the vegetables have broken down and the soup has a smooth consistency. You should have about 2 quarts. You may need to add a little water, depending on the moisture content of the vegetables. If so, do this just a few spoonfuls at a time. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Divvy the soup among bowls and, if desired, drizzle with more oil.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
If the coals are still hot after grilling dinner, by all means throw on a disposable foil tray of vegetables for gazpacho. (Trust me, scrubbing the smoky residue off a quarter sheet pan is not fun.) I let the vegetables come back to room temperature before blending them. Speaking of blending, whiz a couple tomato wedges first just to get the whole thing going, especially if you’re not working with a high-powered blender.
After liquefying the tomatoes, I blended in each vegetable, 1 at a time, finishing with the oil, vinegar, and salt. I added 2 fat pinches of salt right away, and then added another fat pinch just before serving. I have to say, the room-temperature gazpacho is quite flavorful, but if it’s super hot out, there’s nothing better than a well-chilled bowlful. I was rather thankful to only get a quart of soup since most recipes make an obscene amount. I think my yield was less since I used an English cucumber, a medium red bell pepper, and a medium onion.
The flavors of this gazpacho really come together and are very well-balanced. We liked the subtle, smoky flavor that came from the short time that the vegetables spend on the grill. The yield was about 5 cups, which would serve 4. I suggest peeling the pepper to avoid having particles of skin remaining in the soup, as I pureed the soup until it was almost smooth and there were still pieces of pepper skin floating in it.
The soup was a little warmer than room temperature when I finished making it because the vegetables still had warmth from the grill. This gave a more pronounced flavor to the vegetables, and I believe the smokiness came through more than it would have if the soup were served chilled.
Originally published July 22, 2013