To all my friends who say, “Cristina, I enjoy looking at your recipes, but I would never attempt one,” please let me tell you upfront: this is one you can (and should) make. It’s really, super-duper simple. It requires few dishes. The instructions boil down to: chop vegetables, mix vegetables.
It also happens to be really delicious. The ingredients are a riot of summer–a balance of sweetness and acidity, with just a gentle nudge in the direction of spicy. Those Spaniards are really on to something, because gazpacho is an ideal hot weather dish.
Here’s where some readers will groan, but please bear with me: since there are so few components, and since we already established this cold soup as a celebration of summer, it’s really important to use peak-of-season ingredients. That means July and August farmers market tomatoes, peaches, and corn. I know, I am so annoying, but I promise-Thomas that if you use sad, tasteless, greenhouse tomatoes, you will not be very happy with the result. And anyway, you can’t swing a spatula these days without hitting a farmers market.
I want this recipe to be as user friendly as possible, so let me say about the peach balsamic vinegar: I think it lends a note of luscious acidity, but I understand if you’d rather avoid it. Mine is somewhat viscous, and certainly smoother and less sharp taste-wise than the average white vinegar. Accordingly, substitute just a 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar, or even regular balsamic vinegar.
Lastly, if you really want to make a meal of this soup, you can’t go wrong with the addition of shrimp (or crab, or lobster, if you want to be fancy about it). I sauteed 3/4 lb. for two people, with a glug of olive oil and a smashed garlic clove. Over medium heat, it takes about 10 minutes–just long enough to cook them through. You can spoon the hot shrimp directly over the cold soup.
The Frenchman and I enjoyed this gazpacho/sauteed shrimp combination just last night, while watching a show about Rooms and News on our DVR. But for the sake of storytelling, let’s assume that we were actually in Andalucía:
The light is dusty, but still concrete at 10pm, and we are sitting in the bow of an ancient street that bends out of sight at both ends. The restaurant overbrims onto the sidewalk, so that my aluminum chair straddles the demarcating line between inside and outside. It’s hot. The biscuit-colored stone flanking the restaurant sets free a day’s worth of collected sunlight; a wilting, pressed hand of heat. Our waiter, a young man in black pants and a white button up, sets two wide bowls of gazpacho down onto the table. He refills our glasses from the sweating pitcher of vino de la casa between us. He pivots on one foot, already considering his next task. His last word almost doesn’t land: “Buen provecho.”
- 3 tomatoes (they should feel heavy for their size)
- 1 ripe peach
- 1 Kirby cucumber
- 1 small purple onion, divided
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 a jalapeño pepper
- 1 shallot
- 1 pinch dried oregano
- 1 pinch paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 tablespoon peach balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sherry (or red wine) vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (as garnish)
- 1/2 a ripe avocado (as garnish)
- 1 ear of corn (as garnish)
1. Boil a medium pot of water. While you are waiting for the water to heat up, prepare an ice bath. Use the tip of a knife to draw an X into the bottoms of the tomatoes and the peach. (This will make removing the skins a breeze.)
2. When the water has reached a healthy simmer, add the tomatoes and the peach, for 60 seconds. After a minute, move them to the ice bath. Let them hang out for another minute, just until they are cool enough to handle.
3. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and the peach; they should slide right off. Also remove any stems from the tomatoes. Discard the skins and stems. (You could also save them for a stock.)
4. Dice up the tomatoes and the peach, making your best effort to keep the juices on the cutting board. It doesn’t have to look pretty. Move everything to a large bowl.
5. Next, dice the: cucumber, 1/2 the purple onion, the garlic clove, the jalapeño half (seeds removed), and the shallot. Toss everything into the bowl with the tomatoes and the peach.
6. Into the bowl goes the: oregano, paprika, sea salt, a healthy crack of black pepper, the peach balsamic vinegar, the sherry vinegar, and the olive oil. Give everything a good stir.
7. Move the contents of the bowl to a blender or a food processor. (If you don’t have one, you could always enjoy what you’ve made as a salad.) Blend the gazpacho to your desired texture. (I blend mine about 30 seconds, because I like it to be smooth, but still to retain a little texture. If you want it totally smooth, blend for about 1 minute.)
8. Empty the gazpacho back into the large bowl. Cover it with plastic, and move it to the fridge for 1-3 hours. (Of course you can eat it right away, but it’s better to give the flavors a chance to meld. It’s good in the fridge, covered, for about 2 days.)
9. While the gazpacho is chilling in the fridge, prepare the garnishes. With the second 1/2 of the red onion, I like to create wispy slices with my mandolin, but you could also do a fine dice. The cherry tomatoes just need to be washed, and cut into quarters. The avocado can be sliced or diced. You can grill, simmer or steam the corn. Just cut the kernels off the cob before you’re ready to serve.
10. Ladle the gazpacho into 4 bowls. Generously scatter each with red onion, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and corn.