Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012, at 10:33 AM
Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo for Slate
Gazpacho, the granddaddy of all uncooked soups, has several things in common with a smoothie. It’s a cold, thick liquid containing ripe, juicy produce. You make it in a blender. It’s as refreshing as a good tUnE-yArDs song on a hot summer day.
But just because gazpacho shares certain characteristics with a smoothie does not mean it is a smoothie. Perhaps this is obvious to you—in which case, good for you—but it is unfortunately not obvious to everyone. Gazpacho recipe after gazpacho recipe calls for ingredients that would only make sense if you were trying to make a tomato smoothie: sugar, citrus juice, tomato juice. You may as well throw some ice cubes, yogurt, and soy-protein powder in there and drink it with a straw after yoga class.
I understand the impulse to add tomato juice to gazpacho. You do, after all, need some liquid to bring gazpacho to the right consistency and to help the blender do its work (if, that is, you’re using a blender, about which more below). But if you’re using fresh, perfectly ripe tomatoes—as you should—they’ll contribute plenty of juice on their own. And you’ll be adding other liquids that play important roles, too: olive oil, which helps give gazpacho a creamy texture, and sherry vinegar, which exaggerates the tomatoes’ acidity, giving the soup its characteristically zesty flavor. If, after adding these, your gazpacho is still too thick, you can add the bare minimum of water needed to thin it out. If you happen to have tomato juice in the fridge, twiddling its thumbs and waiting to be useful, you can use it in place of the water—but don’t go crazy glugging it in. Under no circumstances should gazpacho become thin and watery.
Which is why you’ll need additional, body-giving ingredients to balance out the tomatoes and cucumber, which expel tons of liquid once you manage to purée them. Stale bread is traditional: It thickens the soup stealthily, blending in so seamlessly that you won’t even realize it’s there. Almonds, which announce their presence with a little crunch, are another option. I like to use some of both. Punch up the flavor with some onion, garlic, and jalapeño, and you’re all set.
A few words on technique: I usually leave my beloved immersion blender on the shelf and get out the upright blender instead. That’s because I like my gazpacho as smooth as possible, and a traditional blender is better at pulverizing things finely than an immersion blender. If you prefer a rougher texture, use an immersion blender or do it the really old-fashioned way: Chop everything finely with a knife and stir it together in a large bowl. (You can also purée half of it and chop half of it to get a nice mix of textures.)
Tomato smoothies do have one, and only one, advantage over gazpacho: They’re more photogenic. While a gustatorily stultifying purée of tomatoes and tomato juice is lipstick-red, real gazpacho falls somewhere between pink and orange, thanks to the olive oil, bread, and nuts. But you can trick the eye by adding a nice green garnish. (Fresh herbs are fine, but avocado is better.) Or you can just accept that gazpacho isn’t meant to look like V8 and feel sorry for those who value visual appeal over flavor.
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 10 minutes
2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, roughly chopped
½ medium cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup almonds
One ½-inch slice white bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 medium fresh jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
Salt and black pepper
1 avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
1. Put the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, olive oil, almonds, bread, vinegar, jalapeño, and garlic in a blender; season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth, adding up to ½ cup water if necessary. (Work in batches if not all the ingredients fit in your blender at once.)
2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate for up to a few hours before serving or serve immediately, garnished with the avocado if desired.