Thursday, July 25, 2024

It’s gazpacho season!

During my “Little-Janet-on-the-Prairie” phase, I lived in very rural Pennsylvania with sheep, a small orchard of mature fruit and nut trees and a sprawling garden that provided much of my family’s food.

Gazpacho was a regular summer meal, made with gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes and a mélange of other ingredients, depending on what was ripe: bell peppers, onions, celery and fresh herbs, garnished with sweet corn fresh off the cob.

It’s been years since I’ve made gazpacho; without a garden, I’m often at a loss for fresh and flavorful produce. In other parts of Mexico, I know there are better local produce options, and I encourage you to take advantage of what’s in season.

gazpacho ingredients
Fresh ingredients are key.

Gazpacho hails from Spain and Portugal’s sun-drenched fields. It’s easy to imagine farm families using their summer harvests to create this refreshing dish. Traditionally a mortar and pestle would have been used; nowadays, blenders, food processors and immersion blenders make quick work of it.

This cold soup is tomato-based and bright red; when olive oil figures prominently, it’s creamier and coral-colored. Others rely on green vegetables or are made with fruits instead of vegetables.

Some folks like gazpacho completely smooth; others prefer to have small pieces of veggies in the “broth,” kind of like a chunky V8 beverage. Whichever kind you make, remember that gazpacho’s allure depends heavily on the quality of its ingredients — especially the tomatoes — so use the ripest, most aromatic and flavorful produce you can find.

 While it’s tempting to dismiss gazpacho as salsa in a bowl, these recipes should convince you otherwise. But is it a drink or is it a soup? That you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Seville-Style Gazpacho

  • About 2 lbs. ripe red tomatoes, cored
  • 1 long, light-green pepper (Italian frying pepper or Anaheim) cored, seeded
  • 1 (8-inch) cucumber, peeled, seeded
  • 1 small white or red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. sherry or rice wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling

Cut tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion into chunks. Process vegetables and garlic in blender at high speed until very smooth, scraping down sides.

With motor running, add vinegar and 1 tsp. salt. Drizzle in olive oil. Mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more oil until creamy. Strain through a strainer, pushing through with a spatula. Discard solids.

Transfer to a large glass pitcher or bowl; chill until very cold, 6 hours or overnight.

Before serving, adjust seasonings. If too thick, add a few tablespoons of ice water. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Garden Gazpacho

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 kg. ripe juicy tomatoes, cored, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 white/red onion, chopped
  • About 2/3 cup stale crusty white bread pieces
  • 3-6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2–2½ Tbsp. sherry or rice vinegar, to taste
  • Garnish: Fresh basil, parsley, cilantro; chopped cucumber and tomatoes
Sip it like a drink or slurp it like a soup: either way it’s welcome on a hot summer day.

Reserve small amount of cucumber and tomatoes for garnish. Place remaining cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onion and bread in large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar and 3 Tbsp. of olive oil; mix together thoroughly with your hands. Cover and chill. Marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

With a blender, process vegetable/bread mixture until smooth. Add another tablespoon or two of olive oil until you reach a consistency you like. Adjust seasoning and vinegar as necessary. Cover and chill again until very cold.

Garnish with chopped fresh herbs and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

Watermelon Gazpacho

  • ½ lb. tomatoes, chopped
  • 1½ lb. seeded, cubed watermelon
  • Handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 peeled, diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Feta cheese

Combine everything except the in food processor/blender; process until chunky-smooth. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped mint.

Green Gazpacho

  • 2½ pounds plum or grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • ¼ cup vodka
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 4 tomatillos, chopped
  • 2-3 shallots
  • 2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sherry or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 handful parsley
  • Optional: 1 handful chives

The day before serving, combine tomatoes, lemongrass and vodka in a blender. Puree until smooth. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels, set over a bowl and pour in tomato mixture. Refrigerate overnight; liquid will slowly drain through. Discard solids.

In glass or ceramic bowl, combine cucumbers, green peppers, tomatillos, vinegars, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight.

In large bowl, blend marinated vegetables, avocado, chives, cilantro, parsley, shallots and tomato liquid until smooth. Taste for salt, pepper, vinegar. Serve very cold.

Tomato-Watermelon Gazpacho with Avocado

  • 2 ripe tomatoes (about 1 lb.), cored, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup seedless watermelon, diced
  • Two-inch-thick slice of a day-old baguette, cut into pieces (or equivalent bread)
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, cut into chunks
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ice cube
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ avocado, diced

In blender, combine tomatoes, ½ cup watermelon, bread, cucumber, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and ice cube. Purée until smooth.

With motor running, drizzle in olive oil. Chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes. Serve garnished with remaining watermelon and avocado.  —

White Gazpacho

  • 2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups seedless green grapes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt
  • ½ cup sour cream or crema
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar or rice vinegar
  • Optional: Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • Garnish: Toasted almonds, sliced red grapes

In blender, puree cucumbers, then strain through sieve into medium bowl. Blend green grapes and garlic, strain through sieve, add to cucumber mixture.

Whisk in yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice. Season with salt, sugar, vinegar. Add hot sauce to taste.

Chill well, garnish and serve.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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