A Big Batch o’ Gazpacho

There’s no denying it. Despite the hotter-than-Hades August that seemed like it would never end, fall has arrived. The cool, crisp days with no humidity almost make you forget that we’re still in the midst of a record drought. Who needs rain when you have glorious blue sky and it’s 72 degrees out?

So why am I posting a quintessential summer recipe just when fall is upon us? Well, I spent all summer eating gazpacho, and I finally nailed down the recipe to my satisfaction, so I wanted to share it. If you’re lucky and happen to have one last harvest of tomatoes — as I’m still hoping for — gazpacho is a great way to use them up.

A big bowl of gazpacho

Gazpacho is the national soup of Spain, but as it’s gotten more popular, the name has been applied to almost any cold soup. For my tastes, gazpacho requires three things to properly be called “gazpacho.” First, it should be made with vinegar, preferably a good sherry vinegar; the taste impact is worth the extra cost. Second, it should have a base of tomatoes and cucumbers; other vegetables can be added, but these should not be omitted. Finally, it should be thickened with French-style bread. I used to make gazpacho without the bread, but the result was more like a chunky V-8. Adding the bread gives it a wonderfully thick, smooth texture that transforms it into soup.

Aside from those rules, gazpacho is a versatile recipe that can accommodate whatever you have in the crisper. Enjoy.

Gazpacho

Time to make: 15 minutes + chilling time
Yields: 2 servings

  1. Combine in a food processor or blender:
    • 2-3 tomatoes, diced, some reserved for garnish
    • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced, some reserved for garnish
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced, some reserved for garnish (optional)
    • 1 shallot or ¼ red onion, minced (optional)
    • 1 mild chile, minced (optional)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1-2 slices French-style bread (day-old is okay), crust removed, torn into chunks
    • 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
    • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup water or tomato juice
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Chill about 1 hour.
  4. Before serving, garnish with the reserved vegetables and other garnishes as desired (croutons, scallions, hard-boiled eggs and avocado all make good garnishes).
  5. Drizzle with a little more olive oil to serve.
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