I love gazpacho! But it wasn’t always that way. I remember the first time I tried it: It tasted like a bad vegetable juice with the flavours of raw celery, tomato, and onions blended into a cold liquid. It lacked seasoning, depth of flavour, and any sort of personality. Mealy, out-of-season tomatoes filled the bowl, and, to make matters worse, with the snow falling outside the window, a cold bowl of soup was about the last thing in the world I wanted to eat. Gazpacho was clearly a write-off.
Thankfully, years later, I was convinced to try it again. It was then that I tasted a real bowl of gazpacho, with its simple but perfect ingredients: ripe, in season tomatoes, pungent onions and garlic, and a hint of celery (these all give it depth); fresh herbs, a sploosh of wine vinegar, a drizzle of good olive oil, salt, and pepper. I was eating food the way it was supposed to be eaten. Every flavour was there, alive and singing, each being shown the royal treatment in its preparation.
Since then I have made every possible incarnation of gazpacho: spiced up with chilies, sweetened with blended–in whole raw almonds, sweetly acidic with aged balsamic vinegar. There have been green gazpachos with grapes and cucumbers, and yellow gazpachos with a hint of citrus. In the heart of summer, this is the soup that speaks to the season. Not only that, but it’s so easy to make: just combine the ingredients and blend! And, if you’re so inclined (and I think that you should be), take a few extra minutes to prepare some garnishes. They are what really make the soup, in my opinion. In this warm weather, it’s a perfect lunch or dinner—filling on its own (with the right toppings). And given that it’s almost entirely composed of vegetables, it’s food that you can truly feel good about eating. Adding a few treasures on the bottom of the bowl, in addition to topping it with the wonderful additions that I suggest, means that every bite is delicious. (For our most recent incarnation we had grapes, goat cheese, marcona almonds, avocado, and chopped, fresh peaches. We loved every bite!)
Gazpacho (serves 4, or 2 really hungry people)
Adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges
// Ingredients //
4 ripe tomatoes, cut in half horizontally
¼ of a medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
½ a red bell pepper, chopped
1 Mediterranean or European cucumber or half a large English cucumber, chopped
½ a Thai bird chile, seeded and chopped
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1½ tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste, if necessary
¼ tsp sugar
// Any of the following garnishes //
1 ripe peach, chopped OR chopped local strawberries or raspberries
A handful of seedless green grapes, cut in half or quarters depending on their size
¼ – ½ cup of goat cheese OR fresh mozzarella, crumbled or grated, respectively
4 fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
½ an avocado, cut into ¼ inch cubes
Flaky sea salt and fresh pepper
* Note: Marcona almonds, if you can spare the expense, are really worth it. If not, toast and salt some raw almonds. They will do just fine.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Put the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, cut sides up, and bake until the skins lightly blister, about 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, break into pieces with your hands and throw into the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, cucumber, and chile. Pulse until puréed. Personally, I like my soup with a bit of oomph to it, so I hand-blend it as close to a purée as I can. This leaves the texture smooth, but with definition. If you prefer a smoother soup, you can process it in a high-speed blender like a Vita-mix or you can strain it through a mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Season with vinegar, salt, and sugar and refrigerate until cold, about an hour or two. If you’re in a hurry, you can set the bowl of soup in an ice bath to chill it quickly.
Once chilled divide your garnishes into the bottoms of the soup bowls. Pour the soup into the bowls and top with additional garnishes, including a sprinkle of flaky salt and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately. Love forever.