Tomato Gazpacho

Summer in a glass….

For me Gazpacho is one of “the” dishes of summer and when the Romanian tomatoes are at their ripest and sweetest what better thing to do with them.  I can drink gallons of this nectar! Its a “liquid salad” of ingredients at their best and full of flavor. It’s far more important to use fresh bursting with flavor vegetables than follow an exact recipe. For example in Romania “parsley root” is abundant and this adds a wonderful celery note to the soup. Sweet cucumbers can be added too as can fresh season onions.

The contentious gazpacho issue is the inclusion of bread. The classic Andalusian tomato and bread soup is of course “salmorejo”. The bread emulsifies the soup and lowers the acidity (although with fully ripe tomatoes the acidity is reduced) and personally I prefer it. Try both and see which you prefer or add a little bread just to emulsify.

One word of warning: cheap “cotton wool” processed bread contains chemicals that render the bread “slimey” when mixed with water and slightly “gluey”. It really is worth making with real bread.

Many recipes use red peppers but I am not a fan of raw red pepper – I find the flavor lacking depth compared with the fabulous taste of roasted red pepper (salads with garlic, sherry vinegar and coriander or soup with smoked paprika) and they are extremely indigestible. My personal take is to add quite a lot of raw onion- the sweet white ones give a deep flavor kick and an even more powerful dose of antioxidants! I have served gazpacho with vodka shots as an elegant dinner party starter and I have drunk it out of a bottle when recovering from hangovers (likely caused by said excessive dinner parties)…. In fact it makes a really great alternative “Bloody Mary” topped up with vodka and with a squeeze of lemon or lime a bit of chilli…a dash of Worcestershire sauce…

So get down to the market, scoop up over ripe almost past it tomatoes and make this sweet sweet summer soup!

Ingredients

Serves 4

100g slightly stale good crusty white bread, soaked in cold water for 20 mins (optional) Note for salmorejo double this.

1kg very ripe tomatoes, diced with the stalk and tough parts cut out

1 ripe red pepper and 1 green pepper, de-seeded and diced(optional)

1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced or 4 small cucumbers

1 sweet onion preferably white but red onions are also great

2 cloves of garlic

150ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste

If your tomatoes are not really ripe (and you shouldnt be making this if that is the case) then ading 1 tsp of organic veggie stock is good.  I like the Swiss “Marigold” brand.

Gadgets & Gizmos:

Just a blender or liquidizer or stick blender. A strong sieve or food mill if you want the gazpacho without seeds and skin. (However the highest concentration of the carotenoids found in tomatoes is found in the skin, so this is a good reason not to over process the soup and not to peel your tomatoes! I never bother unless making Salmorejo for a dinner party)

How To

Chop up the vegetables roughly.

Put all the ingredients in the blender and process until smooth.

If you want to, pass the mixture through a fine sieve or food mill.

If you want to make “salmorejo” then add the bread (squeeze out the water and add torn up chunks) and process until a deep salmon color and a smooth emulsified almost mayonnaisey consistency.

Serve dribbled with olive oil, with pesto, with “leustean” leaves (lovage) or even crispy Serrano ham. The traditional garnish for Salmorejo is crispy ham and crumbled boiled egg.

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