Here in Colorado, we are squarely in the middle of tomato season. With the first frost still over a month away, tomatoes are at their peak and tomato lovers are in a state of nirvana. But after the tomatoes have been canned, the salsas and tomato sauces have been made, and the whole tomatoes are eaten off the vine or immediately made into a salad, one wonders ‘what else can I do with all of those summer tomatoes?’
The answer? Gazpacho. For many years, I wondered what the allure of gazpacho – that cold tomato soup that your friends serve at dinner when they find out you have gone vegan – was. It seemed like little more than a vegetable smoothie served horizontally in a bowl rather than vertically in a glass. And then, a couple of years ago, I went to Spain and had their version of gazpacho, called Andalusian gazpacho. I later learned that gazpacho has its origins in Spain, where there are as many variations and opinions about how to make it properly as the Italians have about pasta sauce. And now that I have discovered what this lovely, creamy, sunny taste of summer is supposed to taste like, I haven’t looked back. In fact, Dear Hubby has requested that we have a batch of the stuff in the refrigerator at all times when tomatoes are in season.
When making gazpacho, use the best quality tomatoes that you can find that are at their peak of ripeness. I love using yellow heirloom tomatoes when I can find them in season because they produce a lovely almost-neon-yellow soup that contrasts beautifully with the colors of the toppings.
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 large tomatoes, stems removed and coarsely chopped
3-inch piece of day-old bread
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar or more to taste
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup peeled, diced cucumber
1/2 cup roughly chopped Marcona almonds
1/2 cup Prosciutto or Serrano ham, julienned
Put garlic, bell pepper, tomatoes, bread, olive oil, vinegar and salt in the VitaMix and blend, slowly increasing the motor speed as the large chunks are processed (if you do not own a VitaMix, see note below).
If you would like to make the soup a thinner consistency, add 1/4 cup – 1/2 water. Add pepper to taste and adjust salt and vinegar seasonings if desired. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 3 hours or overnight.
Ladle into a bowl and add toppings and an extra grind of fresh pepper as desired.
I find that my VitaMix is the best tool to use to properly emulsify the liquids and olive oil and achieve that beautiful consistency that makes your tongue think that this might just be a cream-based soup (it’s not). If you don’t own a VitaMix, then blend it as well as you can and strain it to remove the chunks and get the proper mouthfeel.
If you can make this soup ahead of time, great. The flavors develop in the refrigerator so it’s a great make-ahead meal. Alternately, you can add ice cubes to the soup if you need to serve it immediately. Just make sure it’s cold; gazpacho doesn’t like to be served warm.