I love gazpacho. Chopped vegetables in cold juice are so restorative on a hot day. Nevertheless, I knew my go to recipe was far from authentic. A variation on Ina Garten’sfrom The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, it has chopped vegetables rather than pureed. Most Spanish recipes for gazpacho feature smooth soups, with chunky vegetables and croutons used as a garnish. With this year’s tomato season underway I could rectify my departure from tradition. I would find a new recipe.
To learn the history of Spanish food I read Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain. I then moved on to the other end of the spectrum with Omar Alibhoy’s simple yet modern interpretations of classic cuisine from Tapas Revolution. Surprisingly, traditional recipes seemed less complicated. It’s much simpler to puree everything in a blender than to keep each individual ingredient crunchy.
Spain fell under Islamic rule in the 700’s. In 929 Abd-Al-Rahman III declared himself caliph of a state independent of Bagdad, Cordoba. During this time Spain’s culture flourished, including the areas of agriculture and gastronomy. Trade in spices and aromatics was heavy throughout the Mediterranean, the Islamic world, the Far East and India. Spanish cooking techniques still show the influences of the many Jewish and Muslim traders. I followed Omar Alihboy’s suggestion to add cumin to my gazpacho. Cumin was already a feature of Spanish recipes when Ferdinand and Isabella married in 1469.
Gazpacho comes from Seville, the province in Spain where tomatoes originate. It was the food of agricultural laborers working in vegetable gardens. They would bring olive oil, salt and vinegar to the fields with their mortar and pestle. The fresh vegetables could then be pounded and dressed for the day’s meal. Until the mid-twentieth century 80% of Spain’s population was employed in agriculture.
I love that this gazpacho can be served as a traditional cold soup with garnishes, or as a shooter with brunch. I can waited to try it with bagels and lox. For other summer food ideas try my Summer Kale Salad, Grilled Sweet Potatoes, or Southwestern Salad.
3 slices white bread
4 pounds tomatoes, stem and had white area removed
3 red pepper seeds removed and quartered
2 cloves garlic, root removed
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Dice 1/2 cup each of red pepper and cucumber. Slice 4 scallions
Toast the bread, remove the crusts. Cube the toast.
Add all the ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth. Serve as a shooter in a glass or garnished with red pepper, cucumber and scallion.