Readers might remember me talking about my upbringing with my beloved adoptive mom, who, God bless her . . . was just not a foodie. She wasn’t TERRIBLE, mind you – I didn’t have to worry about her giving dinner guests food poisoning the way Ruth Reichl described in her memoir “Tender at the Bone”, but she simply wasn’t a food lover the way I was – and the way Donna also was, I was later thrilled to discover.
But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have a few delicious things up her sleeve – and one of them was gazpacho. This cold tomato soup from Spain isn’t something you’d think your average American kid would like, but I absolutely devoured it. Mom made it by the vat every summer, and thus, every summer I look forward to making it myself.
We called it “liquid salad”, and though that makes it sound rather a bit less appetizing than it actually is, it’s a fair description of the raw veggie content. I can’t think of a more healthy recipe, for the life of me, and it’s one that can be dressed up with any number of garnishes. Also? Easy. SO EASY. This is my own definitive version, having tweaked it for literally decades now.
CLASSIC GAZPACHO, made California Style
6 cups tomato juice, divided
2 tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 green and 1/2 red bell peppers (or just one of either)
1/2 cup cilantro
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
dash or two (or three) hot pepper sauce (to taste)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine about 2 cups of the juice in the food processor with all the vegetables and the cilantro. Blitz until smooth! You could do this in the blender, and indeed I have, but I actually like it to have a bit of texture. Don’t get me wrong; it should not be chunky or anything even near it, but I like being able to see and feel a bit of the fiber, if that makes sense. Anyway, pour contents into a large bowl, and add remaining juice and the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, making sure oil has been well-incorporated. Chill for at least 2-3 hours, if not more.
Then it’s ALL about the garnishes. I prefer a combination of finely diced cucumbers, peppers, and carrots, but many other things are great. Scallions, chives, more cilantro leaves, additional diced tomato (or halved grape tomatoes), all fabulous and still uberhealthy. We always used to add croutons when I was a kid, also an option.
(Okay, in all honesty: early on, the gazpacho was really a crouton-delivery mechanism; I would basically have a bowl of crouton-cereal with gazpacho-milk poured over the top. But I came to appreciate the soup itself more and more.)
In recent years I’ve been adding carefully diced avocado, too, which adds a wonderful creaminess. All in all, a cooling yet zesty addition to any summer grillfest, picnic, or ordinary dinner.
And now for Donna’s updated twist! [The photograph above is of her variation. I absolutely love her way of making it “creamy”.]
Anne’s gazpacho looked so yummy I decided to try making it with a southwest twist. Anne called her gazpacho “liquid salad”, and, likewise mine could be labeled “liquid salsa”.
I decided to throw in an avocado to try for a creamy texture. It worked great and tasted smooth and delicious, but the color was very muddy. I added a small can of tomato paste for color. Result: creaminess with a deep red color! Perfecto!
CREAMY SOUTHWEST GAZPACHO
4 large ripe tomatoes, core removed
2 large cucumbers, peeled
1 jalapeno pepper, or more to taste
3 green onions, sliced
Juice and zest of one lime
2 tablespoons diced cilantro
1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled
1 can (4 ounces) tomato paste
A few dashes tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out seeds and gel. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon by scraping down the center. Cut jalapeno in half lengthwise. If you want more heat, leave seeds and pulp in, but for flavor without heat remove seeds and pulp by scraping with a spoon down the center.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with chunks of avocado, cilantro or sliced green onions.
Other intriguing gazpachos ’round our favorite blogs:
— posted by Anne