Easy Spanish Gazpacho Recipe
What is Gazpacho?
At its most basic, gazpacho is a cold soup made from raw fruits or vegetables. Authentic Spanish gazpacho is tomato-based, usually with cucumber and onion, and thickened with dried-out bread. These days you'll see the term applied to cold fruit and vegetable soups of all kinds, but for the purpose of this traditional recipe, we'll be talking purely about the classic tomato variety.
The History of Gazpacho
Like many classic Spanish dishes, gazpacho has ancient roots, but has only grown to international popularity in the last two centuries.
Similar recipes using stale bread, garlic, water, olive oil, vinegar and salt first appeared in the Iberian Peninsula around the arrival of the Romans, and the use of cumin shows the Arab or "Moorish" influences that are so distinctive in Spanish cuisine.
Peasants in Andalusia quickly adopted the dish and began to make it their own. Over time, every region or comarca developed their own particular recipe.
Believe it or not, the tomatoes that give modern gazpacho its signature red color were only added in the 19th century!
- Where Does the Name "Gazpacho" Come From?
An interesting discussion of the possible etymology of the word "gazpacho"
How to Make Gazpacho Soup
Traditionally, gazpacho is pounded by hand. I definitely recommend trying to make it this way at least once, if you have a mortar and pestle. (It can be a fun project for a kid, too, with adequate supervision and enough towels to clean up the mess!) But I have to admit, when it's hot outside and I'm craving a cold, savory treat, I am extremely grateful for my handy Cuisinart.
The process is extremely simple: Peel and chop raw ingredients, soak bread in water and squeeze out, puree with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and cumin. You never even have to touch the stove! Just be sure you prepare the soup at least two hours ahead, as it needs the time in the refrigerator for all the flavors to really meld.
A note on texture:
Authentic gazpacho is chunky, not perfectly smooth. (Think about it; it's pretty hard to get all these ingredients perfectly smooth in a mortar and pestle.) But if you prefer a perfectly smooth soup, that's how you should make it. You'll just want to pour it through a fine mesh strainer before you chill the final product.
The best gazpacho recipe is an easy one.
In the case of gazpacho, though, "cook time" really means "chill time" (both literally and figuratively)! No cooking is required, so you can put your feet up and have some sangria while the soup mellows out in the fridge for 2 hours.
- 4 thick slices day-old bread
- 1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes
- 1 cucumber, about 6 inches
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 sweet onion
- 1 bell pepper, red or green
- 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- fresh herbs (optional), for garnish
- Pull your bread apart into chunks, if not already sliced. If your bread has an especially hard crust, remove it. Soak the bread in a bowl with just enjoy water to saturate. Let sit 10 minutes, while you prepare the vegetables.
- Chop tomatoes into chunks and add to your food processor or high-quality blender. Remove the stem, white pith, and all the seeds from the red pepper and add to the tomatoes. Peel and roughly chop the cucumber, onion, and garlic clove, add to the other ingredients, and pulse the appliance a few times to break them down.
- Squeeze all the water out of the bread and add to your blender or food processor, along with the cumin, 1/2 cup olive oil and sherry vinegar. Puree to desired consistency, then add 1 tsp of salt, mix, and taste. Add more olive oil or salt if needed. (If you want a smooth consistency, strain your soup now.)
- Refrigerate at least 2 hours, then adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve in chilled glasses or in bowls topped with fresh chopped herbs, more chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, or with grilled bread or croutons.