At the top of our list of recipes we like to make when the weather gets really hot is gazpacho. The cold soup, from the Andalusia region of southern Spain, is a wonderful midsummer treat. Our favorite version is loaded with fresh tomatoes, filled with chunky bits of green pepper and onion, and adorned with an assortment of crunchy minced vegetables.
Originally made by Arabs living in Spain (gazpacho means “soaked bread” in Arabic) gazpacho was a concoction of garlic, bread, vinegar, water and oil, which was pounded by hand to make a sort of garlic soup. The bread gave it body, and the vinegar gave it zing. Years later, after Columbus brought the first shipment of tomatoes and sweet peppers back from the New World, they were mashed into the mix.
Depending on the recipe, gazpacho can be thin and liquidy or practically solid. In addition to so-called salad ingredients, it can have anything from raisins to green beans. Some recipes also call for potatoes. Gazpacho is not necessarily vegetarian; there are versions with small pieces of fish or meat, and hard-cooked eggs are sometimes used as a garnish. In Spain, cooks from Malaga make white gazpacho with almonds and grapes (no tomatoes) and those in Granada season their soup with cumin. There are even gazpachos that are served hot in winter.
Our recipe is ridiculously simple. We soak a few cubes of bread in water, whirl them in the processor with tomatoes and a handful of vegetables, pour the whole thing into a bowl and stir in tomato juice, oil and vinegar. For cooks in a hurry, the bread can be left out. The soup will taste the same with or without it, but bread makes it a bit thicker. We feel cooler just thinking about it!
—By Jean Kressy