One of the things that was challenging during our trip to Barcelona last year was trying to stay well-hydrated. We’d be the obnoxious Americans carrying around the giant 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water (sin gas) while we walked and went sightseeing, but the weather was warm, even for the first day of fall. Even then, nothing ever felt like it was properly slaking our thirst; that is, until I realized that the key to hydration, at least for me, was eating (drinking?) lots and lots of gazpacho.
It seemed odd at first–given its Andalusian provenance, I wasn’t expecting to find it as readily as I did in Barcelona–but I’m pretty sure the restaurateurs knew that few other foods are as fully restorative during hot weather as even a small serving of this soup. Thanks to unseasonably cool weather once we came home, though, my craving for gazpacho completely vanished and I didn’t think of making it again until a few weeks ago when we were in the middle of the first of a series of unpleasant heatwaves. Loosely following a recipe from José Andrés, I immediately remembered the appeal of this dish: an abundance of water-logged vegetables that help you stay hydrated, but do so while also helping you feel full. (Thanks, fiber!) That it requires minimal prep work and that a blender does all the work is icing on the cake.
I’ve made salmoreja in the past, and I’ve even made Andrés’s ajo blanco; while both are fantastic, neither would do in this situation. Salmoreja is thicker because it tends to call for bread in the soup itself; ajo blanco is made from almonds as well as bread and requires several rounds of boiling the nuts to make them easier to blend. This is literally some fruit and vegetables pureed with some sherry vinegar, salt, water, and olive oil and left to chill in the fridge. (The original recipe calls for straining it, but unlike an ajo blanco, that’s really not necessary here.) Add to it the chopped vegetable garnish, and you’re getting several servings of vegetables in one sitting; without the garnish, it basically becomes a really savory smoothie. Michael had the rather genius idea of frying the croutons in some leftover bacon fat, which I would recommend if you’re serving this to anyone who may be dubious about cold soup but would never pass up a nice piece of bacon.
The leaves of pearl onions were a nice touch, since the base soup doesn’t offer any sort of oniony flavor. (The lack of onion also is why I add a lot more garlic than the original recipe calls for, and it seems to do the trick nicely.)
If I could, I would basically walk around with some sort of Camelbak/wineskin/banana bag of this stuff all day, every day to drink as I pleased. In the meantime, I’ll just whip up another batch or two this week while we suffer through another stretch of 90+-degree heat.
Gazpacho andalus/gazpaxo andalús
Adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by José Andrés
- 5 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped into chunks
- 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
- 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped into chunks
- 4 peeled garlic cloves
- Two tablespoons of sherry vinegar
- 1/2 cup filtered water
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt to taste
For the garnish:
- 1/2 cucumber, diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 pearl onions, peeled, quartered, and leaves separated
- 1/2 day-old baguette, cubed
- 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
Add tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, sherry vinegar, and water to the blender carafe. Add some salt here as well, and then blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and a little more salt, and blend some more until very smooth. (Blend for less time and/or pulse if a chunkier soup is desired.) Store in refrigerator for 30 minutes until chilled.
In a small saucepan, add the bacon fat or olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Gently fry the bread cubes until crispy on all sides, and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Gently season with salt. If desired, gazpacho garnishes can be combined into one bowl or separated into several small ramekins if you would prefer to have a topping bar.
Pour gazpacho into bowls or glasses and serve with garnishes.