I have a confession to make: I’m on a gazpacho binge.
It’s the fourth week that tomatoes have been in season in California and they are hitting their peak. I’ve been snatching up these organic heirloom beauties at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday since they hit the stands, and pureeing them into velvety goodness.
Gazpacho hails from Andalucia, Spain. That’s the region in the south where you’ll find picturesque cities like Granada, magnificent mosaic tile-work and the sprawling Alhambra—in addition to some killer gypsy music that’s best heard in a cave. It’s also from there that you can hop a ferry to Morocco, but I digress. It’s hot in Andalucia, the region hits some of the highest temps in Europe, which is probably why they came up with this savory, cold delight. Typically, the soup consists of pureed vegetables, bread, olive oil and vinegar—most often sherry vinegar.
The first time I gorged on gazpacho I was not in Andalucia, however. I was deep into Iberico ham, caviar and smoked salmon on the brunch buffet at Tres by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. They also had a pitcher of gazpacho amidst the mix and I kept going back to refill my cup. I was seduced by the velvety, savory blend of just the right amount of acid complemented by olive oil so rich that I was sure there was some cream somewhere in the mix.
My fixation started that fateful afternoon and I readily found Jose Andres’ recipe online. I was surprised that there wasn’t any dairy at all; just tomatoes, cucumber, a pepper, olive oil, garlic, sherry and sherry vinegar. Interpreting this through a Greek lens, I couldn’t miss that it also resembled the cornerstone of every Hellenic meal—the Greek salad. So I set out to make it my own way.
I would like to know why the Greeks never hopped onto the gazpacho train? Maybe they weren’t into blenders or they took pride in chewing their salads. Either way, my Greek gazpacho recipe is incredibly simple. First, don’t make this out of season with tomatoes you get from the supermarket. They’re usually inedible and I can’t imagine the flaccid outcome of that undertaking. Assemble the freshest, ripest heirloom tomatoes you can find. They don’t have to be pretty. They can even be bursting at the seems. It doesn’t matter because they’re all going into the blender. Then find a crisp Persian cucumber, red (or yellow or purple) pepper. You can really experiment with peppers. I hate green peppers so usually avoid them, but many recipes do make that recommendation. If you want to be true to the Greek salad, add about a half cup of red onion. I don’t like the bite of raw onions, so I usually opt for a few cloves of garlic instead. Then add in a decent Kalamata olive oil, some red wine or balsamic vinegar, and that’s it. Use my ratios as a baseline and play round with them to get the best mix for you.
Puree your mixture in the blender as much or as little as you want. I hate a gritty texture so I let mine puree forever and then strain it to get the smoothest outcome possible. You can then serve it right away at room temp or chill it for a refreshing treat.
For a garnish, you can add anything from diced up cucumber, tomato and onion to toasted croutons, or for a Greek spin, add a few crumbles of feta cheese. Tonight I complemented my ripe tomato mix with some freshly plucked basil and a few swirls of olive oil.
Find my favorite gazpacho recipe below and tell me about yours in the comments. If you really want to blow your mind, check out Mark Bittman’s collection of gazpacho recipes in the New York Times.