This delightful chilled soup is best in tomato season. Choose the plumpest, ripest, reddest tomatoes you can find. You can serve gazpacho in bowls as a starter or light lunch dish, or in glasses as a palate teaser before a summer meal.

The quantities are not an exact science. For one thing, cucumbers are twice as long in Europe as in America. If using the European variety, half a cuke will do, while a whole one of the American variety will be needed. The bread, crusts removed, is about a cupful, loosely packed. The amount of olive oil you use depends on taste.

Another variable is the blender. If you have a countertop blender, great. If not — and I do not — pile the ingredients into a large bowl, pulse with your handheld blender, then transfer in batches to the blender cup (recipient) and pulse again for a smoother blend.

Then there’s the question of texture. If you want some in your soup — as I do — it will be ready after a thorough pulsing. For a very smooth gazpacho, as is traditionally served in Spain, pass it through a sieve after pulsing.

Finally, spices. They are not traditional — but after tasting my brother’s very excellent Californian gazpacho, I wanted to offer them as an option. He uses cumin, cinnamon and cayenne, and adds bits of chopped avocado on top.

The quantities below will serve 3 people as a first course, and 6 as a palate teaser.

14 oz (400 g) very ripe tomatoes (1 giant, 2 large or 3 medium)
7 oz (200 g) cucumber (see above)
1 green pepper
1 large clove garlic
1 oz (30 g) stale white bread, crust removed
2-4 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup (1/8 liter) water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
optional: pinch of cayenne, cumin and/or cinnamon
optional: extra slice of bread for making croutons
optional: thick balsamic vinegar for garnish

As you go through the steps of this recipe, reserve a few bits of tomato, cuke and pepper to use as garnish.

Rince and quarter the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds (easiest with fingers), chop coarsely and put in a blender.

Peel and halve the cucumber, scoop out the seeds (easiest with a teaspoon), chop coarsely and add to the blender.

Rinse and halve the pepper, remove the stem, pulp and seeds, chop coarsely and add to the blender.

Peel and mince the garlic. Add to the blender.

Immerse the stale bread in water to soften, squeeze the water out and add to the blender.

Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the blender. Add the water, salt and vinegar.

If using the optional spices, add now.

Pulse to blend thoroughly. If using a handheld blender, blend in a large bowl and transfer in batches to the recipient (cup) for the finally blending.

For a perfectly smooth gazpacho, pass the mixture through a sieve, pushing down with the back of a spoon. This will remove any lingering bits of skin.

Taste and add more olive oil if desired. Stir.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

If you’d like to make croutons, preheat the oven to gasmark 6 (350 F, 180 C). Chop the bread into small cubes, place in a pie tin (on parchment paper if you have it), drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Just before serving, chop the reserved bits of tomato, cuke and pepper into small cubes.

Serve the gazpacho in individual bowls or glasses, decorated with the small veggie cubes, the optional croutons and/or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Serves 3 as a starter, 6 as a palate teaser.

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